After nearly 35 years with Tampa Fire Rescue, Chief Thomas Forward is retiring.

  • Forward first appointed chief by then-Mayor Pam Iorio
  • Asked to stay on when Mayor Buckhorn took office
  • No decision yet on replacement

"May 18th, 2018," Forward said, referring to his planned last day on the job. "It's a lovely thing."

Within his 35 years with the agency, Forward rose through the ranks. He was first appointed to lead the department under then-Mayor Pam Iorio. 

Later, he was asked to stay on as chief when Mayor Bob Buckhorn took office.

"I've loved having him as chief," Buckhorn said. "He's been a great face of Tampa Fire Rescue. I think he's done a great job."

Forward said he's proud of the department, and that diversity has been one of his biggest accomplishments there.

"From entry level, to supervisory level to mid-level management to administration you'll see a very diverse workforce," said Forward.

However, there have also been problems within that workforce. Recently, the city of Tampa lost a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a female firefighter, Tanja Vidovic, who was awarded $245,000.

Both Buckhorn and Forward insist the timing of Forward's retirement has nothing to do with that lawsuit or its result.

"That's a ruling that the courts made," Forward said. "This organization will be in lock step and we will move accordingly."

Forward has talked about retirement before. After 8 years as chief, he and his family said it's just time.

"Whatever operation, whatever initiative we were driving, I wanted to see it though completion," Forward said. "Well, you come to a point when you realize there's always going to be a new initiative, there's always going to be this new thing that's going on, so in reality, you're never ever going to finish everything, so you have to pick a time."

As for who will replace the outgoing chief, Buckhorn said he has not made a decision yet, but that there are qualified firefighters within the department who can handle the job.