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LO Fire Chief Ed Wilson to retire

Thirty-eight-year career included more than a decade in Lake Oswego; Dec. 30 will be his last official day on the job

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Chief Ed Wilson said the decision to retire from the Lake Oswego Fire Department was difficult. Its a career Im passionate about, he says, and which I truly think is important and valuable.Chief Ed Wilson has announced that he will retire at the end of the year after more than a decade with the Lake Oswego Fire Department.

Wilson told City Manager Scott Lazenby last week that his last day on the job will be Dec. 30. His retirement will become official on Jan. 15, 2016.

“I’ve been struggling with it, to be quite honest,” Wilson told The Review. “Thirty-eight years in the fire service — it’s a career I’m passionate about, and which I truly think is important and valuable. I’ve never had to dread coming to work, and I’ve gotten to work with talented people. That will just no longer be my primary purpose in life.”

City leaders expressed their admiration for Wilson this week and said the chief would be difficult to replace.

“Lake Oswego has been very lucky to have Ed Wilson as fire chief these past 11 years,” Lazenby said. “It's been a pleasure to work with him, and I've drawn on his experience and counsel on a lot of issues that go beyond the fire department.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Police Chief Don Johnson demonstrates the Heimlich maneuver on Fire Chief Ed Wilson during a class for employees of Babica Hen Cafe and Gubancs Pub earlier this year. Johnson called Wilson 'the finest public safety partner with whom I've ever worked.' Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson agreed.

"Chief Wilson is the finest public safety partner with whom I've ever worked,” he said. “He has done some amazing things here in Lake Oswego, especially in our survivability rates for victims of sudden cardiac arrest — our 26-percent rate is remarkable. There is no better legacy."

Wilson will be the first to tell you he didn’t exactly grow up with the dream of becoming a fireman.

“I was a journeyman ironworker with Local 29, specializing in steel buildings, working for my father-in-law,” he said. “But I was out of town all the time, and I was raising a young family.”

Following the advice of a friend who worked for Portland Fire & Rescue, Wilson took the entry test and was ultimately hired.

“I just wanted an in-town job,” he said, “something stable to raise my family on.”

That stability led to a 27-year career in Portland.

“I was afforded the opportunity to work in a lot of divisions,” Wilson recalled. “I made it a point never to say no when asked to do something.”

That attitude eventually landed Wilson the job of Portland fire chief, although it wasn’t something he necessarily planned.

“I got into that process, and got encouraged by mentors and those I respected,” he said. "They surrounded me and allowed me to flourish."

Wilson began looking outside of Portland for the next step in his career and was even considering a move to California when the chief’s job in Lake Oswego opened in 2005.

Wilson was hired by then-City Manager Doug Schmidt; four years later, the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association honored him with its highest award, the prestigious Golden Trumpet, which had only been presented 12 times since 1986.

Wilson said the move to Lake Oswego required some adjustments on his part.

“The City of Portland had about 780 firefighters at the time, and I worked for a city commissioner. Plus, I had a lot more people working for me that did a lot of the work that I do now,” he said. “But to be honest, I enjoy this. It’s more hands-on, and it gives me a chance to be more connected to the community.”

Wilson’s connections to the community now run deep. As a member of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club, for example, he plays a key role in the distribution of holiday food and gift baskets. Last year, he was among the familiar faces in a local version of “Dancing with the Stars,” which raised money for Multiple Sclerosis and the Lakewood Center for the Arts.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Ami Remsing, an instructor with Step It Up Dance Studio, put Lake Oswego Fire Chief Ed Wilson through the paces in July 2014 in preparation for Lakewood Bandstand, a fundraiser for Lakewood Center for the Arts.City Council members who have seen Wilson in action say they’re sorry to see him go.

“The leadership of the fire department Chief Wilson has provided over many years has been exemplary,” Councilor Jeff Gudman said. “His commitment to excellent, timely and professional service to all the residents of Lake Oswego has been a significant part of making Lake Oswego the wonderful place to live that it is.”

Councilor Skip O’Neill echoed Gudman’s comments.

“Chief Wilson's leadership and his great staff have for years delivered the highest standards a city could ask for,” O’Neill said. “I wish him all the enjoyment retirement brings. He will be missed.”

Many, like Councilor Joe Buck, said they’ve been impressed by Wilson’s leadership outside of the fire department.

“Ed ensures that our firefighters serve meals at the (Adult Community Center), he coordinates the survivor's breakfast and he comes together side-by-side with other members of the community to volunteer his time at Rotary events,” Buck said. “Ed is a visible force in this community. His calm, collected style and utmost respect for his crew and city is admirable and illustrative of the professionalism shown by our city management team.”

In addition to that professionalism, Mayor Kent Studebaker said, Wilson "is a genuinely down-to-earth, nice guy, someone who is fun to be with. He has a wealth of experience and knowledge, which he brought to our city and from which we benefitted. I am glad he is staying in Lake Oswego."

Although he approached the decision to retire with some trepidation, Wilson said he’s starting to feel relieved.

“The one thing that’s going to be a positive change is that there won’t be worrying so much about my firefighters getting hurt, or tragedy in the community,” he said. “Just since I’ve made the decision to retire, it’s kind of like I can feel the pressure being relieved a little bit. I won’t have the cell phone by the bed 24 hours a day in retirement.”

Wilson said he’ll likely kick off retirement with a trip to Palm Springs to visit friends. He’s also planning to spend a lot more time at a family home in Sunriver — when he’s not cheering at his grandchildren’s various football and soccer games around Lake Oswego.

“My daughter thinks I’m going to flunk retirement, but I’m going to give it a try,” Wilson said. “I have a lot of friends who have been retired for a little while, waiting for me.”

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..