Retiring Fire Chief Alex Jackson

Retiring Fire Chief Alex Jackson

Embattled Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson announced Wednesday that he’s retiring next month, and Mayor R.T. Rybak immediately nominated one of the department’s former assistant chiefs as his successor.

Jackson, who has been grilled numerous times about his management of the department by the City Council, said he’s ending a 30-year career. He was the first black firefighter to head the department. He called the post “one of my greatest achievements and honors.”

Rybak nominated John Fruetel to follow Jackson in a job that last year paid more than $121,000 annually. Fruetel served one year longer than Jackson before retiring from the force in 2010. Fruetel since has been working for the city as its emergency preparedness training manager.

Jackson had a reputation among fire personnel as a firefighter’s firefighter when Rybak picked him in 2008 to follow James Clack, who left to head Baltimore firefighters. Only internal candidates were considered for that opening.

Recently, reports of $1 million in firefighter overtime caused some of the council to question his management, and the firefighter union president gave Jackson a 50-50 chance to keeping his job. Jackson also faced criticism over the management of other duties shifted to the department, such as fire safety inspections. Supervision of those inspections were shifted to another department after an April 2010 blaze in an uninspected Lake Street apartment building killed six people.

The city is currently awaiting the results of an outside review of the department that could lead to changes in manning or scheduling.

Jackson’s term expired along with those of several other department heads at the end of the year, and there was speculation whether Rybak would ask the council to grant him another two-year term. Rybak said only that he planned to evaluate those appointments after the year started.