Council Unanimously Backs New Minneapolis Fire Chief

John Fruetel starts March 1. He spent 31 years as a Minneapolis before retiring as assistant chief in 2010 and serving at the city's emergency preparedness training manager.

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously confirmed John Fruetel on Jan. 27 as the new chief of the Minneapolis Fire Department, with Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council President Barbara Johnson praising him as the ideal choice to head the department.

"John Fruetel is the right leader for this department at the right time," Rybak said. "A career Minneapolis firefighter, he will step in immediately with the strength of purpose and ability to lead for which he is well known. There is also no one more skilled in emergency response: from the collapse of the 35W bridge to the 2011 tornado in North Minneapolis, Chief Fruetel has been there for the residents of Minneapolis in tough times."

Fruetel retired in 2010 as assistant chief after a 31-year career with the department. He was a candidate for the chief's job when it went instead to Alex Jackson, who became the city's first African American chief. Jackson announced Jan. 4, 2012, that he had elected to retire. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Jackson was being criticized for overtime spending and allegedly excessive use of sick leave by members of the department. Rybak nominated Fruetel to succeed Jackson.

Jackson's final day as chief will be Feb. 29. Fruetel starts March 1.

Don Samuels, a councilman who chairs the council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee, said Jackson "inherited a storm of problems, including challenges to morale and an extremely difficult economic climate. He brought his long experience to bear in keeping our residents safe, improving relationships in the department, and responding effectively to emergencies, including to last May's devastating tornado in North Minneapolis. His impact as chief, including as the first African American fire chief in Minneapolis' history, will long be felt. He has done a great job, and I was hoping that he would stay to see the changes that he has made bear fruit, but I wish him the very best."

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