After a 12-month nationwide search for its next Fire Chief, the City of Santa Maria chose from within its ranks. Fire Battalion Chief Leonard Champion has agreed to assume the position of Interim Fire Chief when current Interim Chief Scott Kenley’s tenure ends in November. City Manager Rick Haydon is quite confident that Battalion Chief Champion is ready for the job.
“I have had the privilege of knowing and working with Leonard for over 20 years and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in his abilities; he’s an outstanding individual and I believe he’ll be an excellent Chief,” Haydon said.
Battalion Chief Champion began his fire service career with the Santa Maria Fire Department as a Reserve Firefighter on March 24, 1990. He promoted to become a full-time Firefighter on January 9, 1993. Champion’s love of the fire service was sparked early in his childhood, through his father’s involvement in the Santa Maria Fire Department as a Reserve Captain.
In the words of Battalion Chief Champion: “I am very excited at the tremendous opportunity to lead the men and women of the Santa Maria Fire Department and strengthen the service we provide to our citizens. It is an honor and privilege to serve the community where I was raised, an opportunity afforded to a select few. With the support of the community, City and Department, I believe that I am up to the challenge.”
Battalion Chief Champion holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the California State University, Long Beach and teaches at Allan Hancock College in the Fire Science Division. Chief Champion is highly respected among his peers and members of the Santa Maria Fire Department. He is heavily involved in the County-wide delivery of Emergency Medical Services and is a member of the Santa Barbara County EMS Advisory Committee.
Chief Kenley recognized Battalion Chief Champion’s potential early on in his tenure as Interim Fire Chief, and his confidence in Champion’s ability to lead the Fire Department has grown stronger over time. Chief Kenley has no doubt in Champion’s abilities and strongly recommended him as the Department’s next Fire Chief. According to Kenley: “The sign of a good leader is his or her ability to lead from behind, allowing individual members of the organization to excel. A true leader understands that when their job is done, the members of the organization will say we did it ourselves. Leonard has all of the tools necessary to be the leader in this or any other organization.”
Battalion Chief Champion will assume the duties of Interim Fire Chief on November 12, 2016.
The Santa Maria Fire Department has 62 personnel, and operates five stations serving the entire community, plus a sixth fire station dedicated to serving the Santa Maria Public Airport. In 2015 the department responded to 9,970 calls for service.