Fire chief Bob Mills says he'll retire at the end of March

Just a few weeks after starting the process to pick a new police chief, Forest Grove officials learned they will need a new fire chief as well.

Bob Mills, who has been chief of Forest Grove Fire and Rescue since 2004, announced Monday that he will step down at the end of March, capping a 35-year career in the department that started in 1972 as a volunteer firefighter.

Mills, who was hired by the city in 1978, said his decision to step down was prompted by both professional and personal reasons.

Like outgoing Police Chief Glenn VanBlarcom, who will retire in March, Mills said that he didn't want to step down at a time when staffing levels were lower than he felt was necessary. With the passage of the public safety levy in November, he said, he is comfortable turning over the reins to someone else.

In addition, Mills said, the expected arrival of his first grandchild this year prompted a discussion with his family over the Christmas holiday. He said his daughter, who lives in Keizer, and his son, who lives in California, encouraged him to retire while he 'could still enjoy it' with them.

'I've been doing this for 35 years,' he said. 'There were many times when I had the boat hooked up to the truck and we were getting ready to head out when a call came in and I had to leave them there. I can't get that time back, but I can start to give them some time now.'

City Manager Michael Sykes praised Mills' long service to Forest Grove.

'He's been an outstanding fire chief,' Sykes said during Monday's council meeting, where Mills' retirement was announced. 'You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who has been as dedicated to the City of Forest Grove as Bob has been.'

Earlier in the meeting, Rob DuValle, the city's human resource director, briefed the city council on the police chief search. He said he is in the process of putting together a list of community members who will advise Sykes on what they want from a police chief. Sykes said he would use a similar process for picking Mills' replacement.

City Councilor Tom Johnston said it would be tough to replace the two men.

'I've worked with both of them,' said Johnston, a former city police officer. 'It will be hard to fill those shoes.'

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