July 21st, 2024

Fire chief Rathwell retiring in February

By Lethbridge Herald on November 24, 2021.

Herald photo by Trevor Busch Fire Chief Marc Rathwell speaks to media about his more than 25 years of service to Lethbridge during a retirement announcement at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Trevor Busch
Lethbridge Herald

Lethbridge Fire Chief Marc Rathwell is hanging up his axe.

After close to three years at the top for Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services, Rathwell announced his retirement on Wednesday during a media event at City Hall. His final day with the City will be February 11, 2022.

“The last couple of years have been very trying, on everybody, no more for myself than anybody else, but trying to work our way through all the crises, and COVID issues, and all the other components that are part of an active fire service,” said Rathwell. “It’s been a unique challenge for myself. We’ve found lots of great opportunities in there; I think the key, all along, for myself has been a lot of great staff that I’ve worked with, whether it’s the senior admin folks that I work that are phenomenal people, right down to the newest and latest recruit that we just hired.”

Hired in May 1996 as a paramedic/firefighter, Rathwell’s career has seen him move through the ranks with the City of Lethbridge. In 2010, he became the medical training officer, then served as a lieutenant in 2014 and advanced to captain in 2016. He became deputy chief in November 2018 and chief in June 2019.

“I’ve been with the City coming up to 27 years,” said Rathwell. “Most of that time has actually been spent on the floor as a paramedic/firefighter, which I gotta tell you is still my passion, still my love. I believe strongly in our system, what we do, and that’s what has driven me along the path that I’ve been on.”

“Very, very fortunate to have taken on some other roles in our department. Medical training officer for a few years, I was the deputy chief for a few years, and the chief for the last couple of years.”

Throughout his time in the top role, Rathwell supported the retention of Lethbridge’s integrated service delivery model and has been instrumental in dealing with the local impacts of the ongoing drug crisis and COVID-19 pandemic. During his tenure, Rathwell also oversaw the opening of the new fire station in West Lethbridge earlier this year.

“When I think about Chief Rathwell, I think about a true leader, and mentor, for all of the people that reported to him… it’s a very complicated and large role, and the City will miss him and his leadership,” said Mike Fox, director of community services for the City of Lethbridge. “He brings integrity to the job, honesty, and he leads with his heart.”

Mayor Blaine Hyggen thanked Rathwell for his quarter century of service to the community, while noting there will be big shoes to fill with the department.

“It’s not just the last two and half years — almost three years — that Chief Rathwell has been at the helm, it’s the 25 years of service to our community, and the leadership. I’ve known Chief Rathwell over the years to be someone of integrity, and his leadership qualities are second to none. It’s going to be really sad to see him leave, but of course I know what he’s been able to do with his team, we’ll have somebody else at the helm and we’ll be able to continue with those successes.”

Asked to explain the upcoming recruitment process for Rathwell’s replacement, Fox confirmed the City will most likely be seeking a candidate from within the ranks.

“The City of Lethbridge did a quick market scan, but we believe we have the talent. Marc has led his team very successfully, and we have a lot of talent internally, and Marc has prepared them to take on the challenges that the City is facing.”

According to a media release, the City hopes to have a new fire chief in place by mid-January, allowing time to transition into the position and train with Chief Rathwell prior to his retirement.

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