It was an emotional scene as Mobile Fire Chief Stephen Dean said he was going to retire effective Nov. 2.

Dean hugged his daughter-in-law after announcing after nearly 39 years of service to the department, he was stepping down.

“It has been an honor to serve the city of Mobile, its citizens, countless mayors and City Council members, honorably and dutifully in building a fire department that now is fully staffed and revered as a stellar example in firefighting nationally,” he said. “I would put my upper level staff up against anyone else. Whoever moves up or inherits the position will have a great core.”

Dean said the change came about because it was “just time.”

Mayor-elect Sandy Stimpson told media on Monday he would make a decision regarding the fire chief position before he took office. Calls to the mayor-elect’s chief of staff, Colby Cooper,  on Dean’s announcement were not immediately returned this afternoon.

Looking back over his career, Dean said he was proud of several things accomplished under his leadership.

The Mobile Fire Rescue Department became the first and only department in the state of Alabama to be accredited.  

Two new stations were built, $12.8 million in Fire Act grants were won and renovated nine stations under Dean. 

Also under Dean’s watch, the MFRD obtained the highest staffing level in the department’s history and became the most diverse in its history, promoting the first minority to the rank above captain, and the first female chief.

“Without the support of the mayor and my staff these accomplishments could not be achieved.  All these achievements have allowed our Department to stay on the leading edge of new trends in the fire service, and to be directly involved in the development of programs that affect fire service worldwide,” he said.  

“I am very proud of my accomplishments throughout my 39-year career serving the people of Mobile. I made a promise and feel assured that I upheld the oath taken all those years ago. I have no regrets. I have always served in the best interest of the community, my home that I love.  I made a commitment when I was appointed chief that I would not let politics or my own career goals come before what was right for my community. Today is no different. Today, I must put my love of this job and my own disappointment aside to allow the department to continue thriving under new leadership.”

One employee tearfully watched as Dean announced his retirement. MFRD spokesman Steve Huffman has known Dean for a long time. In fact, they were neighbors.

“There have been a lot of accomplishments in his tenure,” he said. “I know there are sometimes bad days, but with him, there never was a bad day.

“We both know when it’s time for work, but he’s someone I’ve never been afraid to go to. We could always joke and laugh together.”

As Dean is preparing to transition into retirement, he said he achieved a dream.

“There are no words to express what an honor and pleasure it has been for a local boy like me to fulfill his lifelong dream to serve and protect the good people of his hometown. I can step aside today with a happy heart, because I know that somewhere out there, a little boy or girl is watching a firetruck go by and thinking …  ‘One day … that will be me.’ And I know that Mobile will give them the sense of community, education and opportunity to lift them up and fulfill their dream … just as it did me,” he said.