Longtime Seneca fire chief fired, replaced

SENECA – A former fire chief of 33 years was let go Monday during the Seneca Fire Board meeting.

Jerry Sears, 76, joined the department in 1973. Now, he says he is not allowed inside the station.

He claims that two board members had a meeting without the third and tried to force him into retirement before the board meeting occurred.

“The President of Trustees Jerry Johnson came to my house two weeks ago on June 20 to enlighten me that I was going to retire the following day,” Sears said.

Sears wrote a letter of resignation for the department business meeting, but he claims he reconsidered and never turned it in. Then, he was let go at the board meeting with a 2-1 vote on July 10. Kett Johnson was chosen as the new chief, and claims he was first approached about it June 30.

“He served the department very well. Everything would not be what it is without him,” Johnson said.

Sears said that he would not have retired if he didn’t have to.

“I had some more goals to reach. I wasn’t ready to go yet,” Sears said.

Sears thinks that his age and heart-related issues may be one of the factors that lead to him being let go. He was off for almost six months while Assistant Chief Jason Bersano filled in for him.

“I’ve had some recent health problems for the last six months, but I was ready to come back to the department,” Sears said.

Administrative Assistant for the Fire and Ambulance District Karen Osmond said Sears’ departure hasn’t sunk in to all of the firefighters yet.

“The news isn’t 24 hours old yet. They haven’t had their first meeting with the new chief yet,” Osmond said.

Sears wishes his firefighters good luck.

“Ever since I first became chief, I told them if they got into a seat and went to an accident I wanted to see them in the same seat,” Sears said as parting words to his former team.

Johnson said he plans to keep the transition as smooth as possible.