North Lake Tahoe Fire appoints Ryan Sommers as permanent chief
Special to the Bonanza
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In a unanimous vote at the Sept. 21 North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District board meeting, Ryan Sommers received the permanent position of fire chief.
With his family in attendance and fire district staff looking on, his two children pinned on his new badge in front of a room full of people giving him a standing ovation.
“I’ve seen you grow a lot in the last few years. I’m very proud of you,” said NLTFPD Director Paul Zeller.
Other members of the board said that they have only received positive feedback from the community during Sommers’ time as interim chief, and they believe he is the ideal person for the job.
In February 2016, the NLTFPD board appointed Sommers as interim chief for a six-month duration.
Last week, NLTFPD Board Chair Susan Herron expressed that Sommers meets all of the requirements of the job description, and that there is perhaps no need to vet out the position, so the recommendation was made to appoint Sommers to the lead role, effective Sept. 21.
“We’re excited,” said Sommers’ fiancée, Karen Stout, following the badge pinning. “In our household, we 100% believed in him. In these last six months, we’ve seen him change a lot. He really cares about the community, the people, and their families.”
Per the Sept. 21 vote, Sommers’ new contract is for three years. He will earn an annual salary of $146,285.88 — the same as what he made as interim chief.
Sommers succeeds Mike Brown, who served as NLTFPD Fire Chief from 2007-16, and he becomes the seventh chief of NLTFPD since its inception in 1959.
LONGTIME LOCAL TIES
Sommers was born in Reno and raised in Incline Village and started his career with the NLTFPD in 1991 as a seasonal volunteer firefighter.
After working with Calfire and going to Salt Lake City to learn dispatch, he came back to the NLTFPD in 1995.
Throughout his tenure, Sommers moved up through the ranks as dispatcher, firefighter, Engineer, Captain, Battalion Chief and Assistant Fire Chief.
Ryan’s father, Michael Sommers, recently flew in from Florida to celebrate Ryan’s new position.
Michael, the former NLTFPD Director who moved to Incline Village in 1965 when the town hired its first paramedics, served with the district for 12 years.
Michael fondly remembers taking Ryan on emergency calls with him when he was younger. He added that Ryan used to listen for emergency messages on his CB radio and call for help.
“All he wanted to do is help people, so I knew he’d be in some kind of service industry,” Michael said.
When Michael got called to a structure fire at 1 a.m., he jumped in the fire truck and found Ryan sitting in the passenger seat.
“Then I knew it was time to retire,” he said.
Michael added that the family is proud of Ryan and knows that he will serve the North Lake Tahoe community well.
“It feels good; this has been years in the making,” Ryan Sommers said of his new job. “This is a great community and to make it to this level- now the work begins.”
Sommers said his first priority will be to develop a new strategic plan. The district’s last strategic plan was from 2005-2009, so Sommers and the Board will review the last plan and work on developing a new one, which includes evaluating District-owned buildings and their functions and looking at staffing levels/budget priorities, among other goals.
Sommers said he is confident he can meet the district’s goals by the end of this fiscal year.
Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer with a background in marketing and journalism. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.