News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 10/09/2012
Subject :

New Fire Chief Selected for Palo Alto
Contact : James Keene, City Manager    650-329-2563
Palo Alto, CA – City Manager James Keene announced his selection of Mr. Eric Nickel as the new Fire Chief in Palo Alto. Nickel comes to Palo Alto from the Novato Fire District, where he has worked for the last five years as a Deputy Chief. Nickel will begin his duties with the City on November 13, 2012, and will receive an annual salary of $184,830.

After a nationwide executive search that yielded 37 applications, preliminary interviews were conducted with seven candidates. From this pool of qualified applicants, three candidates were invited to interview with two key stakeholder groups consisting of senior City managers, public safety and fire command staff, Palo Alto community representatives and Bay Area public sector leaders. 

"Eric has more than 25 years of experience in strategic planning and mentoring future leaders, as well as collaborating with the community," said James Keene. “These skills are essential as we continue to move forward to build a sustainable model of fire service for the future."

At the Novato Fire District, Deputy Chief Nickel led the Fire Operations division, managing a team of 88 with a $29 million budget, and protecting a population of 65,000 community members. Nickel had oversight for emergency and administrative operations, including the ambulance system, fire prevention, budget, human resources, labor-management and community engagement. Prior service included positions as a Battalion Chief for four years, and Captain for four years after servicing as a Firefighter/Paramedic for ten years.

“We are excited to have Chief Nickel join the Fire Department and lead the outstanding men and women of the PAFD on a number of exciting initiatives on behalf of the Palo Alto/Stanford community,” said Dennis Burns, Chief of Police/Acting Director of Public Safety. “I look forward to working with such an energetic, enthusiastic and dedicated public safety professional.”

Chief Nickel is an active community leader currently serving as a Board of Director and Co-Chair for the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Novato Program, as well as a Board Member for the Novato Human Needs Center and other local Emergency and Disaster organizations.

"It is an honor to be selected as the City of Palo Alto's next Fire Chief. My passion is community leadership and organizational excellence. It is exciting to be part of an extraordinary community with innovative, educated and passionate advocates,” said Nickel. “I am eager to lead the dedicated, talented and professional men and women of the Fire Department to engage the community and generate shared solutions to make life safer.”

Nickel's academic training includes a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Finance, from California State University, Long Beach. Chief Nickel completed the Executive Fire Officer Program at the United States National Fire Academy, and is a Chief Fire Officer after completing the Center for Public Safety Excellence program.