FAIRFAX, Va. - The fire chief for Fairfax County announced his retirement Friday.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Bowers will step down from his position on April 30. He has served as the county's fire chief since Feb. 2013.
Bowers’ retirement comes after Battalion Chief Kathleen Stanley, who headed Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department's women's program, resigned last month and wrote a scathing resignation letter in which she detailed at least half dozen allegations of sexual harassment. Department leaders disputed the claims.
In 2016, Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff committed suicide following months of alleged online bullying from co-workers. Her husband, Steven, said he was saddened by the new allegations made by Stanley and called on Bowers to resign. He also claimed there had not been enough done to change the culture of the department since his wife’s death.
Two weeks ago, FOX 5 asked Chief Bowers if he was still the best person for the job in the wake of all of the complaints and calls for him to step down. He said then, "I am the best person moving forward for this department to work together."
In an email to FOX 5, Bowers wrote that he will be pursuing other personal and professional opportunities. He added, “I will always stand up for and behind the men and women of this department.”
Regarding the department’s efforts to address ongoing issues such as bullying and harassment along with leadership, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said, “There is still much work to be done and addressing these issues remains a priority for the county. The upcoming change in leadership will not impact our efforts.”
Steven Mittendorff said Bowers’ retirement is bittersweet, but he strongly believes it is best for the department, which is in need of a change in culture.
“He's been really successful on many different programs, but the county now needs someone who can lead them through this storm that they have been weathering for the last two years after the suicide of my wife,” said Mittendorff. “And I don't think that Chief Bowers is the correct person at this time for that. But I am looking forward to working with the new chief, if so invited to do so, and coming in and speaking with him, and hoping and making sure that the department moves in a positive, forward motion.”
Before becoming Fairfax County’s fire chief, Bowers was the fire chief in Montgomery County in Maryland and served with their department for 35 years.
"Fairfax County has appreciated Chief Bowers’ outstanding record for community outreach and engagement. Under his leadership Fire and Rescue personnel spent tens of thousands of hours going door-to-door proactively offering residents help with smoke alarm inspections and safety tips,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. “He headed our public safety team’s efforts during the World Police & Fire Games in 2015, earning accolades from participants and visitors from all over the world. With the chief’s enthusiastic hands-on support, charitable efforts like Fill-the-Boot for Muscular Dystrophy, jacket and backpack drives have helped the neediest of our community. The Board of Supervisors is committed to sustaining these positive efforts while ensuring a safe and positive work environment for all our brave men and women in uniform.”