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Oakland appoints new fire chief

OAKLAND — After about a year with no permanent fire chief, Oakland’s fire department will get a new leader this May.

Reginald D. Freeman, who has been the fire chief for the City of Hartford, Connecticut since 2016, has been chosen by City Administrator Ed Reiskin and Mayor Libby Schaaf to lead the Oakland Fire Department.

He will take the helm from Deputy Chief Melinda Drayton, who has been the interim fire chief since last year, when then-fire Chief Darin White left Oakland for a job in Marin County.

“I am sincerely humbled and honored to have the confidence of Mayor Schaaf and Mr. Reiskin to serve the great City of Oakland and the men and women of the Oakland Fire Department as fire chief,” Freeman said in a statement. “OFD is a proud organization comprised of consummate professionals.”

Before being the fire chief for Hartford, Freeman worked as the fire chief for Lockheed Martin and as a civilian fire chief in Iraq for the U.S. Department of Defense from 2004 to 2008.

He has been a firefighter and emergency medical technician, a fire captain, a fire service instructor and assistant fire chief, before taking on the various fire chief jobs.

His first day will be May 17, according to an email Reiskin sent to Oakland employees.

“We have undertaken an exhaustive recruitment process and we are extremely confident that Mr. Freeman is the right choice for this moment in the fire service and, more importantly, for the Oakland community,” Reiskin wrote in the email.

He added that Freeman “brings a tremendous level of professional experience leading fire departments and emergency management functions, has demonstrated a strong commitment professional development, and built a successful track record of achieving strategic goals and objectives at every step of his career” and noted Freeman’s education credentials, including a bachelor’s  degree in leadership, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and that Freeman is a Harvard fellow.

Reiskin also thanked Interim Chief Drayton for her leadership.

“From managing the City’s ongoing Covid-19 response, mitigating the ongoing annual threat of wildfires, and responding to the tragic passing of Assistant Chief Sean Laffan, the past 15 months have been full of unprecedented challenges, but OFD has proven itself to be responsive, resilient, and committed to providing the highest caliber of service to Oakland,” Reiskin wrote.

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