Emanuel appoints new Fire Department commissioner

February 16, 2012

Michell Eloy

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday he's appointing 33-year firefighter veteran Jose Santiago as the new commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department.

The announement came the same day current Commissioner Rober Hoff publicly announced his resignation as head of the department.

Santiago currently serves as Deputy Fire Commisioner for the Chicago Fire Department. He also served briefly as executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications from March 2010 to June 2011, and spent 31 years in the Marine Corps.

Santiago praised outgoing Commissioner Hoff for his service to the Fire Department, and promised upon his appointment to "ensure this office reflects the diversity of ideas and backgrounds and ideas of this great city."

Hoff served in the Fire Department for 35 years and was appointed as Commissioner in 2010 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. A third-generation Chicago firefighter, Hoff has been honored twice with the Carter Harrison Award, one of the Fire Department's two most prestigious awards.

Hoff said his decision to step down was "personal," and not fueld by policy disagreements with Emanuel. He said he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren.

"What is more beautiful in life is to spend time with them?" said Hoff as he pointed to his wife, son and two grandsons, who stood with him as he announced his resignation. "This job is very time consuming. And I'll be honest with you, I need to spend more time with them."

Published reports from a city budget hearing last October say Hoff told City Council he was "deathly against" Mayor Emanuel's suggestions to close some firehouses and reduce the number of men on each truck to save money.

When asked whether he was against the mayor's budget-cutting proposals, Santiago skirted the question.

"There's many many different studies on what is safe and not," said Santiago. "That's what we've been working on, taking in all that information, and we'll make a determination based on safety."

Santiago's appointment still needs to approved by the City Council.