Press Club

BREAKING: Arlington’s Fire Chief is Retiring

Arlington Fire Chief James Bonzano is retiring in a few months, has confirmed.

The county will formally announce Bonzano’s retirement this afternoon. A job posting, seeking his replacement, was recently published on the county careers website.

Bonzano will have served as chief for about three years when he retires, capping a 34-year career with the Arlington County Fire Department that included service as EMS branch director at the Pentagon following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He was appointed acting chief following Chief James Schwartz’s ascension to deputy county manager in 2015 and was subsequently named the permanent fire chief in 2016.

In a statement, County Manager Mark Schwartz lauded Bonzano’s commitment to the Arlington community.

“Jimmy has dedicated his career and his life to Arlington County and the people who live and work here, and I thank him for all he has done in his more than three decades of service,” said Schwartz. “His commitment to strong and progressive leadership has ensured the safety of our community.”

Bonzano, who was born in Arlington, said that “it has been my privilege to serve the community I love for 34 years.”

“The time has come to slow down and spend time with my family,” he said in a statement. “I am honored to have led the dedicated men and women of the Arlington County Fire Department, and I am proud of what we have achieved together.”

“I offer my sincere thanks to Mark Schwartz, the executive leadership team, the men and women of the fire department, and the citizens of Arlington County for providing me the opportunity to be their Fire Chief,” he continued. “It has been a remarkable experience I will always cherish.”

The fire department has been facing staffing challenges amid retirements, though the new county budget seeks to address that via increases in first responder pay. A new recruit class of 28 firefighter/EMTs, just sworn in last week, will also help “make the department’s staffing numbers whole.”

An exact retirement date has not been confirmed, but a fire department spokesman said that Bonzano will retire at the end of the summer.

The county is currently in the process of looking for a new chief. The full text of the job posting for the position is below, after the jump.

Hat tip to Tom N.

Arlington County is looking for an experienced, progressive senior level manager to lead its nationally recognized Fire Department.  This Fire Chief will direct the overall operations in an all-hazard organization to deliver essential emergency and non-emergency services to the community to include fire suppression, fire education and prevention, special operations, and EMS services. The Fire Chief reports directly to the County Manager and is responsible for setting the overall department strategy and direction, collaborating with other County agencies, and building inter-jurisdictional/regional relationships.

Responsibilities include:

  • Setting, communicating and implementing a strategic plan and vision for the department;
  • Delivering timely, cost effective and efficient all-hazard approaches to community services;
  • Using data to comprehensively assess operations and providing a vision to examine alternative forms of service delivery that may improve responsiveness and/or enhance resource conservation;
  • Engaging citizenry to foster support, input, and prioritization of needs for service delivery;
  • Predicting or adjusting priorities and services through analysis of performance measures and other analytical data;
  • Enhancing collaboration with other County agencies on mutual issues including Police, Emergency Management, Sheriff, and Public Health and with other local, regional, and federal public safety agencies and other public-sector organizations;
    Directing the preparation of the budget and managing expenditures for all department and grant funding efforts;
  • Directing the development of operational and administrative procedures, departmental policies, programs and initiatives; and
  • Managing change proactively and fostering a climate that embraces change.

As a department head, this position is responsible for hiring, transfers, promotions, demotions, and implementing significant disciplinary actions while an Assistant Chief manages day-to-day operations through three Deputy Chiefs.


The Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) operates 10 fire stations with a $62M operating budget and 340 uniformed and staff employees who provide services through three major programs:  (1) Emergency Services Program (Fire/EMS) which provides response for emergency and non-emergency requests for service; (2) the Support Services Program which includes Special Operations (High Threat, SWAT, HazMat, Special Events, Technical and Water Rescue), Fire Marshall (Code Enforcement and Prevention), and Communications and Logistics; and 3) Personnel Services including the Fire Training Academy, Health/Wellness/Safety, and Human Resources functions such as employee relations, timekeeping, and performance management. For more information please visit the Fire Department’s public website here.


Arlington, Virginia, is an attractive, well-planned community with excellent location and a unique blend of desirable living standards, and effective, pro-active government.  An urban County of about 26 square miles located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Arlington is best known to visitors as the home of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.  Arlington has won recognition as an innovative, progressive and dynamic organization that is well-known for its community-driven processes and its forward-thinking policies and practices with significant and meaningful opportunity for public participation. Since the 1930s, our community has viewed itself as a learning organization, one that strives to constantly improve for the benefit of all its residents.  That culture is infused throughout our workforce and community. For more information about Arlington, click here.

Selection Criteria

The successful candidate will have a combination of education and experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science, Emergency Services, or related field and command-level experience managing multiple company operations.  This Fire Chief will have a supportive leadership style that motivates, inspires and engenders coaching, mentoring and team building, and fosters cooperative relationships within the Fire Department and with County leaders, the community, the County Board, and regional, state and national partners and stakeholders.

Additionally, the successful candidate will:

  • Be a progressive visionary leader who understands modern fire suppression, emergency medical, prevention, and emergency preparedness strategies and techniques;
  • Practice accountability and stewardship and instill pride and confidence in staff;
    Be accessible, approachable, open-minded, flexible, visible, engaging and genuinely care about department members;
  • Value, embrace and drive change, technology, process improvement and innovation and plan for emerging trends directing efforts to enhance technology, safety, and regulatory compliance;
  • Evaluate results and impacts of change on the workforce and community ensuring core services are not compromised;
  • Engender trust and credibility where “actions match words” and be viewed as a credible leader across a broad spectrum of issues;
  • Be an effective listener and communicator with strong interpersonal skills who considers divergent views and evaluates them prior to making impactful decisions;
  • Be capable of setting and communicating a strategic vision for the department and community with an understanding of how to drive the workforce toward achieving a shared common vision;
  • Promote professional development, coaching and mentoring and foster a work environment that motivates individuals to excel in their areas of responsibility;
  • Demonstrate cultural competency and an understanding of diversity and inclusion concerns in recruiting, retention, development, and promotional selection efforts;
  • Be skilled at working in a culturally and ethnically diverse community;
  • Collaborate and demonstrate an ability to build rapport with elected officials, peers, community representatives, County leadership, department staff and association leadership, and build partnerships at the local, state, and federal levels to achieve the ACFD vision, to secure resources, and to advocate for the County, department, workforce or community interests; and
  • Have an unblemished record of ethical and professional conduct that can withstand intense public scrutiny.

The preferred candidate will also have a Master’s Degree in Fire Science, Emergency Services, or related field and leadership certifications that indicate professional achievement such as National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer, Center for Public Safety Excellence Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Incident Command System (ICS) 400, Fire Officer III and Instructor III.

Special Requirements

Interested candidates should apply by the preferred filing date of June 4, 2018 to receive first consideration.  Please go to to apply.  Access this position by clicking on the apply now tab.

Please attach a cover letter and resume to the on-line application or include your response in the supplemental question. Your letter should describe why you are interested in the position in Arlington County.  You should also describe your experience and accomplishments in the following areas: (1) budgeting, and capital improvement; (2) labor relations; (3) leadership development and succession planning; (4) performance management especially as it relates to accountability, deployment of services, and use of metrics to drive decisions; (5) overseeing or directing and implementing new programs or initiatives that had significant impacts on your department or community; and (6) regional partnerships. Also, be sure to describe the size of the organization(s) you served including budget and staff, the range of services and functions you managed, the ranks you held, and to whom you reported.

Additional Information

The Fire Chief is part of the Executive Management Accountability Program (EMAP), a pay-for-performance management system, in which Senior Executives are eligible for a negotiated salary/benefits package and are evaluated and compensated based on a performance agreement linked to the County Management Plan and results achieved.

Salary is negotiable with a salary range of $117,145.60-$224,806.40 (effective July 1st) with a competitive benefits package including health and dental insurance, generous leave programs and holidays, and a competitive retirement program including a defined benefit plan, a defined contribution plan and a deferred compensation plan.  For more details about our benefits please click here.

A resume may be submitted as an attachment rather than completing the work experience portion of the application. Interested qualified applicants are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible as this recruitment is open until the position is filled with a preferred filing date of June 4, 2018.  Qualified applicants whose application is received by the preferred filing date will receive first consideration. Applications received after the preferred filing date may be considered if a hire is not made from applicants received by the preferred filing date.

This is a confidential process and references will not be contacted until mutual interest has been established. A comprehensive reference/background check will be conducted for all candidates who are finalists for this position.  The background check may include checks on the following:  criminal record, driving record, education, certifications, credit rating and media review.

Employment is contingent upon completion of a physical exam and the selected candidate will be required to complete the Commonwealth of Virginia Statement of Economic Interest form upon acceptance of employment and annually thereafter.

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