The man who became the fire chief of Iowa’s second largest city just nine months ago abruptly retired last week. Stephen Reid gave no reason for his decision, until now. Reid says he originally planned to stay with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department for three to five years. But, he claims a lack of support from administrators and a bare-bones budget forced him to leave less than a year after taking the job.
“They really don’t give two hoots about the fire department,” Reid said. A dispute with City Manager Jeff Pomeranz clinched Reid’s retirement plans. Reid says Pomeranz turned to him at a manager’s meeting and basically told him to leave. “He said, ‘if you’re not happy, just get out. Get out now,'” Reid said. “He went on five to seven minutes talking like that. He didn’t really look at anyone else. He stared at me the whole time.” Pomeranz denies singling out Reid and said his message was aimed at everyone in the room.
“The point was, we want you to be here, but if there’s someone who doesn’t want to be part of the leadership of Cedar Rapids and see this work in progress through, you need to think about your future,” Pomeranz said. Reid says the lack of funding and support for the fire department was unacceptable – placing the safety of both firefighters and citizens in jeopardy because of a lack of firefighter training.
Pomeranz admits there were items Reid requested that were rejected, but calls funding levels for the department appropriate. “We added to the department’s equipment. We added to the training department’s budget. We’re also in the middle of building a new facility for the fire department,” Pomeranz said. Reid said some city council members made him feel unwelcome during his entire tenure. Pomeranz said he’s confident the fire department is moving forward in the right direction.
By Mark Geary, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids