After 45 years in Metro, Interim Fire Chief Billy Lynch retired Tuesday as one of the longest serving employees in the government's history.
Mayor Karl Dean officially announced Lynch's retirement at press conference in the Metro Courthouse, calling it a "milestone moment." The mayor praised Lynch, who has served under all six mayors since the formation of the Metropolitan government, for decades of service that he said has often gone unnoticed by the public.
“He may not receive public recognition or fame, but for nearly five decades as a true public servant, Bill has made the lives of every Nashvillian better through his dedication and hard work,” Dean said.
Lynch began working in Metro government in 1968, as the 25-year-old assistant director of the Human Resources Department. He has led three different Metro departments, including the Fire Department, as well as Human Resources and Public Works.
He will stay on in a part-time role as a special adviser to the Dean administration, and assist with the Fire department, Public Works and other special projects, Dean said.
Following the mayor's remarks Tuesday, Lynch thanked a number of people he has worked with and for, and recalled milestones over the course of "a long ride." He'd been mulling over when to finally step away from Metro for some time, he said, and joked that he'd recalculated his pension 15,000 times over the last several years.
“I want to thank all the mayors of Nashville, from Beverly Briley forward, and Sheriff Fate Thomas," he said. "Each one of them gave me an opportunity that I know most employees never get. And I welcomed the challenge they all gave me.”
Dean had praised Lynch's work in response to the 2010 flood, describing how he and his staff at Public Works organized the removal of 333,000 cubic yards of debris from the city's neighborhoods. Lynch returned the compliment, hailing the mayor and his team and calling Metro's response to the disaster "the biggest accomplishment" he's ever seen in any government.
“Most of all," he said. "I want to thank the taxpayers. You paid my salary.”
Taking Lynch's place as interim fire chief is current Assistant Chief Rick White, a 35 year veteran of the department. Dean said that a search for a permanent chief is beginning and that White can be a candidate.
“I can’t think of a more noble profession than protecting the lives, the property and the environment of this community," White said. "And we’re honor-bound to do it. This is a great honor only exceeded by its great responsibility. We’ll go home tonight, maybe have a bit of celebration, but we’ll be back at work in the morning, roll our sleeves up and move forward.”