Retiring chief will miss camaraderie

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POUGHKEEPSIE – Fire Chief Mark Johnson is leaving the Poughkeepsie Fire Department after reaching the mandatory retirement age.  The veteran city employee began working for the city as a police officer before transferring to the fire department in 1991.  The 36-year employee is slated to leave in January of 2022.

Johnson, 65, rose through the ranks and has led the city’s firefighters as chief of the department since 2010.  The avid golfer has no plans to move to Florida when he retires, even though the southern state is home to several retired fire chiefs from Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley.

“I’m going to miss the camaraderie with all of the employees that I’ve had over the years, and the other departments,” said Johnson when asked what he will miss the most.  “I’m going to miss all the people I’ve worked with and for all these years – that will be a big void in my life.”

Johnson said he will certainly not miss getting up at 2:00 a.m. to respond to calls and not being reachable 24-hours a day even when he’s on vacation.

When asked about his legacy, the city veteran said, “I hope I’ve brought us forward as far as technology and equipment upgrades under my watch, as well as professionalism.  I think we’re one of, if not the most, respected fire departments for our operational skills, in the county.”

International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 596 is the union that represents the firefighters in Poughkeepsie.  Union President Nick Bucher, noting that his men are currently working without a contract, said of Johnson’s departure, “We are looking forward to the next chapter in this department, and we are hopeful that city officials will look for our input in the selection of the next chief.”

Johnson gave advice to his yet-to-be-named successor “Don’t take anything personally, just do your job to the best of your ability,” he said. “Try not to be affected by outside forces and do what you think is right.”  With regard to political influence, Johnson warned, “We’re a service department and politics really shouldn’t play a role in this job.”

Mayor Rob Rolison offered kind words for his chief that oversees 63 firefighters in the city of 30,000.  “Mark Johnson has been an exemplary fire chief and a consummate professional.  For decades, he has helped to keep this city safe, responding to all sorts of emergencies and always being there when people needed help.”