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Santa Maria Names Leonard Champion as New Interim Fire Chief

Battalion Chief Leonard Champion will start work as interim chief for the Santa Maria Fire Department in November. Click to view larger
Battalion Chief Leonard Champion will start work as interim chief for the Santa Maria Fire Department in November.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Maria Fire Department will be promoting from within as Battalion Chief Leonard Champion was tapped to fill the position of interim chief, the city announced Monday.

He will start on Nov. 12, when current Interim Fire Chief Scott Kenley’s tenure ends, according to the city.

Champion has worked with the Santa Maria Fire Department since 1990, when he was a reserve firefighter, and became a full-time firefighter in 1993.

The decision came after a year-long national search, and Kenley had strongly recommended Champion to take over the spot, the city said.

“The sign of a good leader is his or her ability to lead from behind, allowing individual members of the organization to excel,” Kenley said in a statement.

“A true leader understands that when their job is done, the members of the organization will say we did it ourselves. Leonard has all of the tools necessary to be the leader in this or any other organization.”

As interim chief, Champion will lead the department while the city continues to look for a permanent fire chief, according to the city. 

Champion, who was working on a strike team for the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Monday, said in a statement that he was very excited about the opportunity to lead the department.

“It is an honor and privilege to serve the community where I was raised, an opportunity afforded to a select few,” he said. “With the support of the community, city and department, I believe that I am up to the challenge.”

Champion is a member of the Santa Barbara EMS Advisory Committee and teaches at the Allan Hancock College in the fire science division.

In a statement, City Manager Rick Haydon said he believes Champion is ready for the chief job.

“I have had the privilege of knowing and working with Leonard for over 20 years and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in his abilities; he’s an outstanding individual and I believe he’ll be an excellent Chief,” Haydon said. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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