DeKalb County Fire Chief Edward O’Brien is retiring after 28 years with the department.
O’Brien has strong ties to DeKalb County. He graduated from Redan High School and began his career in firefighting with DeKalb in 1986.
“I came in as a Firefighter One, and hit every rank in the department and worked my way all the way up,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said he gave the county notice of his planned retirement six months ago. His last day with the fire department will be Oct. 9. O’Brien said DeKalb officials have already begun a search for his replacement. The goal is to have a new fire chief in place before he retires, O’Brien said.
O’Brien said it’s somewhat unusual for firefighters to lead the same department in which they started their careers.
“It doesn’t happen a lot, I don’t think, but I think it’s good and healthy for the organization to see that it can happen,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien’s brother, William O’Brien, retired as DeKalb’s police chief in 2012. For several years, the two brothers led DeKalb County’s public safety departments. “That was really interesting, both brothers in the same county running different departments,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said he comes from a long line of public servants. Several relatives are firefighters or policemen, including his younger brother, who is the fire chief in Newton County. “It was in our blood, you could say, for public service,” O’Brien said.
After becoming chief, O’Brien didn’t just settle into a desk job. He said he has loved being part of a busy fire department.
“I get out there and still run calls with them,” O’Brien said. “I’m going to miss the action and the interaction with the employees.”
But O’Brien said he’s looking forward to the slower pace retirement will bring.
“It’s the best decision for my family and myself,” O’Brien said. “The county has been real good to us. But my number’s up and it’s time to go.”
Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May has recently called for public safety enhancements in the county, such as hiring more personnel and purchasing new fire engines.
“I think a lot of positive things are happening,” O’Brien said. “For me as a chief, if you’re leaving, you want to leave on good terms, and I think I am. There’s lot of positive things going on and the timing is just right. I think it’s all worked out for a reason. I think the good Lord has a plan, and things are happening, and you just got to follow it.”