After working in Gilroy for more than seven years, Gilroy Fire Department Chief Dale Foster announced his retirement Thursday.
This time, Foster is determined to “retire for real,” referring to his retirement from San Jose Fire Department in 2003 before his move to Gilroy.
“I’ll miss being involved in so many things relating to public safety, and I’ll miss the people I’ve worked with and dealt with in this job,” Foster said.
Foster, a Morgan Hill resident, said he loves the Gilroy community and plans to stay involved with all things Gilroy and Morgan Hill.
As for the fire department, Foster believes they’ll be just fine without him.
“I think the fire department is on a good track right now, and I think the future is good for the the department and the City,” he said.
In his retirement, Foster plans to travel, enjoy time with his wife and “basically do whatever I want.”
Foster’s last day with the department is August 17.
Foster graduated from Oregon State University, where he worked part-time at a fire station in Oregon while going to school. Foster said in 2005 that the experience sparked a love for firefighting that has lasted more than 30 years.
He joined San Jose Fire Department in 1972 after fulfilling his U.S. Navy reserve commitment and stayed there 32 years.
He rose through the ranks to engineer, then captain then in 1996 to battalion chief in, then to deputy chief, and finally, in 2000 to assistant chief.
While San Jose searched for a fire chief in 2003, Foster served as interim chief before then-Gilroy Chief Jeff Clet was hired.
In San Jose, Foster oversaw the department’s training division for four years, and in the early 1980s, was one of the founders of the department’s Hazardous Materials Response team that deals with toxic spills.
Foster also experienced firsthand the Santana Row fire in August 2002, the worst fire loss in San Jose history. He was among the 120 firefighters who responded to the 42-acre fire at the shopping center construction site, then helped manage operations and coordinate mutual aid for that fire and a nearby apartment fire.
During San Jose’s search for a permanent chief in 2003, Foster was among the finalists interviewed for the job. When Clet was hired away from Gilroy and his position opened up, Clet encouraged him to apply, he said, adding he was ready to become a chief.
Foster’s management skills were no doubt put to the test during the hiring process in 2004. He was one of six people chosen from 25 applicants to participate in several rounds of interviews and an in-depth background check.
His salary started at $141,216 per year. His salary in San Jose, of which he will receive a percentage in pension, was $160,962.