October 12, 2011

Parsons ’82 Becomes Ithaca Fire Chief

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Tom Parsons ’82 was promoted to Ithaca Fire Chief on Sunday after previously serving as deputy fire chief and fire marshal.

“It’s an honor to be fire chief in Ithaca. The Ithaca Fire Department has a long tradition — it’s been a department that’s been growing with the community,” Parsons said.

Parsons takes over the fire department at a time when many Ithaca municipal agencies are facing budget cuts. Under Mayor Carolyn Peterson’s proposed 2012 budget, the fire department will have to cover increasing expenses while taking in less revenue, according to Parsons.

“There are some changes that we have to make because of budgetary reasons,” Parsons said, adding that the fire department’s budget was cut by six percent since last year. “[We have to] adjust to less staffing, and we’ll be doing things a little different.”

Alderperson Joel Zumoff (D–3rd Ward) estimated that two of the fire department positions will remain unfunded.

Parsons began his career as a firefighter while studying agriculture and food processing at Cornell. During the spring of his junior year, Parsons volunteered as a bunker at the Ithaca Fire Department, where he responded to emergencies in exchange for free housing at the firehouse.

“While I was going to school at Cornell, a friend who was also a Cornell student was living in the fire department as a bunker,” Parsons said. “I thought that would be a neat thing to try, and it was saving me some money for housing.”

Unable to find a job in meat sciences after graduation, Parsons joined the nearby Slaterville Springs Fire Department.

“I really didn’t have any expectations of having a career here when I first joined … [but] I liked the type of work of becoming a firefighter,” he said. “The problem was it was 1982. It was kind of like what it is today: We were in a recession, and there were no jobs … I didn’t want to travel to find something in my field.”

In December 1985, Parsons returned to the Ithaca Fire Department. In addition to working as a firefighter, he taught training classes to new recruits. In 1991, he stopped teaching, took a paramedic training course in Syracuse and became a part-time paramedic.

“I worked my way up through the [fire department] ranks,” Parsons said.

Upon being promoted to assistant fire chief, Parsons gave up his part-time job as a paramedic, he said. In 2007, he was promoted again to deputy fire chief.

Parsons’ appointment to Ithaca Fire Chief was approved unanimously by the Common Council last week.

“He was the best candidate,” said Zumoff, who served on the selection committee. “There were a whole bunch of candidates who applied. It was a civil service position.”

The search committee was presented with a list of the top six scorers on a civil service exam. Parsons earned the top score, according to Zumoff. The committee then interviewed four candidates and recommended three to Mayor Peterson.

“Tom was our first choice, and he was the mayor’s first choice too,” Zumoff said. “He’s highly qualified, extremely competent and highly personable. I suspect he will do an excellent job.”

Outgoing Acting Chief Tom Dorman, who will be retiring next month, served as Acting Fire Chief since former Chief Brian Wilbur retired in 2009, according to The Ithaca Journal.

Original Author: Joseph Niczky