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New Northshore Fire Chief Jim Torpin has spent entire career with department
Jim Torpin has a good understanding of the Northshore Fire Department.
He got his first job as a firefighter in 1993 with the department and worked his way up through the ranks. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1998 and deputy chief in 2005. He was named acting fire chief in 2011 with Tom Weathers's retirement.
But it was his time with Weathers that he says has prepared him the most in his new role.
The Northshore Fire Department Board of Commissioners unanimously named Torpin to the permanent position of fire chief on Jan. 15 and a badge pinning event took place on Jan. 29.
"It is really not going to change much," said Torpin, who is 54. "I inherited a very good department."
Torpin said that he admired Weathers's relationships within the department, but he kept in place an accountability within the department, which serves Kenmore and Lake Forrest Park.
"He was fantastic," said Torpin. "He was very collaborative with staff. He was great to work with. He let me be really involved."
Torpin said that he and Weathers also shared a financial philosophy for the department that will not change.
"The primary source of revenue for all government agencies is property taxes," said Torpin. "During the past four years we have made changes internally instead of raising taxes."
Torpin said the department's budget is 2.5 percent less in 2013 than it was in 2009.
"Our revenue is about 13 or 14 percent less than in 2009," said Torpin, who is proud that the department is small and nimble enough to make changes without a ton of red tape.
He said that he and his department are very appreciative for the community's support, including the new fire department headquarters in Kenmore.
His ability to continue his work with the budget was a contributing factor to the decision by the Northshore Fire Department Board of Commissioners.
“The board made this decision in light of the leadership and job performance shown by Chief Torpin," said Fire Commissioner Eric Adman. "He has contributed to a very good working relationship between the board and department administration, and to keeping the department operating at a high level within a reduced budget.”
The ability to be that conservative with the budget comes from concessions within the department and the union.
"We understand that the economy is tough on everyone and we need to do our part," said Torpin. "The employees here are fantastic. Everyone does their part."
Negotiations with the union are something that Torpin has seen from both sides. He served as the president of Northshore Firefighters union Local 2459 from 1997-2003.
“Local 2459 believes that Chief Torpin is well suited to lead the Northshore Fire Department in regionalization efforts, while at the same time maintaining fiscal responsibility and continuing to display sound, reasonable judgment,” said IAFF Local 2459 President, Jim Harvey.
Torpin leads by example as he served as Fire Prevention Division chief for a year, while serving as deputy chief.
He said that under his lead the department will continue to put a big emphasis on training.
"The firefighters are really dedicated to training and self improvement," Torpin said. "No other department trains as much as my guys do."
Torpin said that the biggest change within the department came in the early stages of his career when it went from having about seven to 10 volunteers to being all full-time employees in 1995.
"I was part of the first class hired from outside of the volunteers," said Torpin, who grew up in the area and graduated from Juanita High School. He has been married to his wife Terri for 27 years and has two adult children.
But changes may be in store for the department as the discussion of regionalization with other departments continues.
"We are going to take a hard look at it," said Torpin. "The goal would be to make our service more effective or better. It has to meet one of those requirements."