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City looking to replace Fire Chief

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Austin Fire Chief J.J. Adame, the first Hispanic leader in the department’s 167-year history, is apparently on his way out. KVUE News reported that there was an emergency meeting at City Hall last night to make decisions about the leadership of the Fire Department. News 8 Austin had a similar story.

A formal announcement is expected today, and an interim chief named to run the department until a replacement can be hired. Adame would be the first department manager to be replaced by new City Manager Mark Ott, though several have left the city of their own accord in the past few months.

Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras met with Adame on March 20 and told him that he had 45 days to improve his performance. Specifically, Adame was told he needed to strengthen his leadership position within the department. A plan of action was drawn up and approved by Adame’s superiors, but details were not officially released. The 45-day period ended on Monday.

However, assistant City Manager Michael McDonald wrote in a memo to Chief Adame at the time of his review in March: “There have been many instances where I think you have deferred to your subordinates in situations where you needed to take a lead role as chief.” The memo called for Adame to demonstrate “leadership, which should entail less dependence and deferral to your Chief of Staff.”  He was also instructed Adame to remedy problems with the department’s payroll system.


In his last public appearance, Adame addressed the Public Safety Task Force on Monday regarding staffing levels within the department. Specifically, he updated the panel on a project to staff all engines in the department with four firefighters. He reported that 49 of the department’s 54 units had been converted, and five units – 1 quint (combination engine and ladder truck) and four ladder trucks were still staffed with only three firefighters.


Adame completed his report, but seemed not prepared for several of the questions put to him by the task force members. When he was asked about why the three-man quint unit was located in a far south fire station, Adame seemed stumped and did not have a clear answer to the question. He also answered several other questions saying he did not have the information, and would provide it later.


Adame, 58, has been Austin’s Fire Chief since February, 2006. He was hired after 32 years with the Corpus Christi Fire Department, 18 of them as the chief.


According to the Fire Department’s website, Adame has held statewide appointments in the industry as a member of the Texas Commission on Fire Protection as well as the Governor’s Homeland Security Council and First Responder Advisory Committee. Chief Adame is also a military veteran, including tours of duty with the United States Navy in both Vietnam and Desert Storm. Additionally, He has also been involved in community services as a leader and volunteer of organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the American Red Cross.

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