After 28 years with Halton Hills Fire Protection and Prevention Services, Fire Chief Bob Meads is calling it a career.
Meads, 57, announced Friday he will retire December 29 from the job he's held since 2001.
The Georgetown resident feels sad about leaving the department he's been involved with since he began as a volunteer firefighter in 1978.
"With 28 years invested in the fire service, I'm certainly going to miss it," says Meads. "It's going to be a huge culture shock for me in some respects. I'm not going to be walking around with a pager on my belt 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Meads says he had been thinking about retiring for some time and when "a really good job offer from the private sector came along" he decided now was the time.
Meads wouldn't disclose details about the job, but called it a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
It's the people that he's worked with within the department, and elsewhere in the town, that Meads says he will miss the most when he retires.
"I've had a lot of great friendships established through the fire service. This decision didn't come easy."
He says he's had a great five-and-a-half years as chief.
"There have certainly been a lot of challenges. But it's been great."
Getting Meads to talk about his accomplishments during his tenure as chief is not an easy task.
"I don't say that I have accomplished anything. It's what everyone else has done. I've just been one piece of the puzzle," he says.
Harry Olivieri, Chief Officer, Prevention and Public Education, credits Meads with many achievement, including the service's move to Inspection Response Teams.
The teams are routinely out in the field doing inspections and fire code compliance enforcement and are also the first crews to respond in the event of an emergency.
Other achievements of Meads Olivieri says include the purchase of squad trucks, making prevention and public education a priority, the purchase of a new dispatch system and the hiring of additional staff to meet the growing needs of the municipality.
The number of full-time staff has doubled at the department since Meads took over the job.
Olivieri also says Meads was responsible for having the department designated as achieving the tanker shuttle accreditation. That accreditation is achieved by meeting a standard set by the Insurers' Advisory Organization for transporting water for fires to rural areas.
He also says Meads was instrumental in creating the Town's first Fire Master Plan, something Meads says he is proud of and developed with the Town's Fire Service and Emergency Plan Committee.
Meads joined the fire department as a volunteer firefighter in 1978 and became full-time in October 1981.
He started his full-time career with the service as a fire prevention officer and eventually became a training officer, a position he held for about seven years, before becoming assistant deputy chief.
He became the fire chief in May 2001.
"Bob's unsurpassed dedication to the fire department and his appreciation of staff has inspired many individuals to seek a career in the fire service," says Olivieri. "His unique approach to service delivery has created a cost effective and reliable fire service in the Town of Halton Hills that citizens can be proud of."
Olivieri says Meads' "shoes will be hard to fill," and that staff wish him the best.
Town CAO Denis Perlin says he feels a "mixture of joy and regret" that Meads is retiring.
"I'm glad for Bob because he has been planning to retire, on the other hand (there is) regret because he has been a tremendous employee for the town," says Perlin.
Meads has been "miles ahead in his thinking" regarding provision of the fire service and the fact full-time firefighters with the Halton Hills service work in both suppression and emergency response as well as fire prevention and education is unique, says Perlin.
"It's a tribute to him and the staff that work for him," says Perlin.
Mayor Rick Bonnette says Meads will definitely be missed.
"He's a very unassuming person. But he advocated for his fire department very well," says Bonnette. "He has been creative in the fire department to bring services out to the people of Halton Hills."
Bonnette says when Meads leaves he will definitely have "left his mark. He says he followed in the tradition of "homegrown" Halton Hills fire chiefs. Meads and the two previous chiefs of the department, Bill Cunningham and Mick Holmes, were all local residents who worked their way up the ranks of the department.
Perlin says the Town will be recruiting both internally and externally for a new fire chief. He says John Martin, chief of operations for the fire department, will serve as acting chief until a new chief is appointed.
(Lisa Tallyn can be reached at