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Fire chief sails off to sunset — thoughts on why?

March 1st, 2009 · 7 Comments

This Tuesday email from city manager Penny Ballem about the retirement of Fire Chief Ray Holdgate is slowly filtering out to the public. Any thoughts, public or private, on this move? Planned retirement or something else going on? You can always email me at

From: Ballem, Penny
To: Robertson, G; Anton, Suzanne; Cadman, David; Chow, George; Deal, Heather; Jang, Kerry; Louie, Raymond; Meggs, Geoff; Reimer, Andrea; Stevenson, Tim; Woodsworth, Ellen
Cc: Corporate Management Team (COV) – DL; Au, Wendy; Coulson, Marg; Fast, Roger; Hui, Tony; Kay, Monica; CMT Admin Assts – DL
Sent: Tue Feb 24 17:21:39 2009
Subject: Retirement of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Sevices General Manager, Ray Holdgate

After 35 years of service, the General Manager of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, Fire Chief Ray Holdgate, has announced his retirement effective May 1, 2009.

Chief Holdgate has held the position since 1998.  He worked his way up through the organization from a firefighter to a training officer, Assistant Fire Chief and then Fire Chief.

Among other accomplishments, Chief Holdgate was involved in the development of  Vancouver’s Emergency Salt Water Pumping System for earthquake preparedness, and E-Comm, the City of Vancouver Emergency Operations Centre and Emergency Services dispatch facility.

Retirement plans include spending time with his grandchildren and sailing in the Gulf Islands.  (Yahoo!!)

I want to thank Ray for his tremendous contribution to the City and VFRS over the last 35 years, and I know everyone will join me in wishing him a happy, healthy retirement.

I also want to thank Deputy Chief John McKearney for agreeing to take on the Acting Chief position while we complete a search.

Penny Ballem, MD, FRCP
City Manager

Categories: City Hall Talk

  • I detect a little bit of gossipy interest in your question and posting of this email. ?? After 35 years I hope Ray enjoys his retirement and sailing the Gulf Islands. I hope he even makes it to the Broughtons.
    Happy Retirement Ray and heres to a job well done.

  • City Hall Insider

    Probably cause he was a loyal footsoldier to the old regime and refused to deal with the firefighters and their contract demands.

  • fbula


    Only gossipy in the sense that I am wondering if there are political reasons he chose to leave, i.e. interference from the new city hall team, or a sense they might side with the firefighters union — longtime contributors and supporters of Vision Vancouver — who have not been a fan of the chief’s for many years.

  • Don Buchanan

    i know nothing about the political side but would offer this observation.

    what if he has one of the once typical defined benefit pension plans? if so how about the fact he’s working for 30 cents on the dollar? imagine if you could retire with 70% of your income and do nothing (the defined benefit formula is about 2% of annual salary per year of service, topping out at 35 years). why work?

    when i read “35 years of service” i thought bingo! of course if there was going to be political fallout from past decisions then why bother working all those long hours that high level execs put in for that extra 30%?

  • Denis

    The guy after 35 years is moving along. That length of time as someone else mentioned is the maximum pension so why not go sailing. Why wait untill too old to spend time with the family. Happy retirement and now a new fellow can show his ability to do the job. When one gets close to the magic number , the finally decision can be swift.

  • Len B

    My brother was on the 35 year defined plan and stayed an extra 2-3 years because he had some projects he felt he needed to see through. When they were complete he left and wasn’t worried in the least about the % he ‘lost’.

    I understand both Don and Denis’ sentiment regarding capping out, however I also know there are certain individuals who would have never reached certain heights in their career, if they had that attitude in the first place.

    Just maybe a fire chief is that type of guy.

    Something to chew on….

  • not running for mayor

    I wish him the best of luck in his retirement, he’s earned it. Maybe now that he’s free he can shed some light on his opinion of fixing up the firehall at Renfrew and 22nd instead of building a new one. Ahh to be free and be able to speak one’s mind.