Even though the new city fire chief won't come from their ranks, the Niagara Falls firefighters union was happy with the announcement Friday of its new leader.
William D. MacKay, deputy coordinator of emergency management for Fairfax County, Va., will assume the post on March 2, Mayor Vince Anello announced Friday.
MacKay worked for 25 years in fire and rescue for Fairfax County, located just outside Washington, D.C. It has 1.1 million people and a staff of 1,500 firefighters and 35 stations. He retired last February as a battalion chief.
During the last year, he has been responsible for the overall management of Fairfax County's hazardous materials team and emergency preparedness.
"I'm up for the challenge," MacKay said in a telephone interview late Friday. "It also gives me an opportunity to expand my career."
"It sounds like the city made a good choice," said Joseph Pedulla, president of Firefighters Local 714. "He has a strong background in emergency management, hazmat and a strong [emergency medical service] background."
Acting Chief John O. Jacoby stepped down in December, citing pay as a factor. He said he could make more with overtime as a union battalion chief.
At the end of January, the city raised the fire chief salary by $11,000 to $74,569, making the fire chief's pay equal to the police chief's for the first time since 1980.
City Administrator Daniel S. Bristol, who has been handling the fire chief's administrative duties during the search, said the pay increase sends a positive message to the new chief.
Pedulla said no one from his union applied for the chief position because of the salary, but he noted that applications were closed after the pay increase was announced. He said job security was another reason union members avoided the job.
"It would have been different if Anello was just elected, but this could be a short-term job," the union president said. "The mayor only has 22 months left in his term and I've never seen [a fire chief] stay through a change in administration. If Anello is re-elected, I hope [MacKay] stays. He seems like a good guy to work with."
MacKay said he's aware of the political situation, but he said, "I hope I do a good enough job to stay on in the next administration, whether it's the current one being re-elected or a new one."
Pedulla said the union is counting on a strong manager to help save the 72nd Street Fire Station.
MacKay is a native New Yorker. He graduated from high school in Merrick and attended Nassau Community College, both on Long Island.
He also was deployed in New York City following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency contingent. As an operations chief at ground zero, he supervised a staff of 160.
MacKay is certified as a hazardous materials technician, has received special recognition as part of the Anthrax Response Team in Fairfax County and most recently was in an office that managed grants in excess of $50 million.
MacKay is married with two children.