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Posted on Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

Ann Arbor Fire Chief Dominick Lanza resigns, citing family issues and budget cuts

By Lee Higgins

Ann Arbor Fire Chief Dominick Lanza has resigned, citing a desire to be closer to family and looming cuts to the fire department.

Lanza, 59, who has headed the department for nearly a year, submitted a letter of resignation late Monday afternoon, he said today. His resignation is effective March 25.

Lanza's wife Julie has been living in the couple's retirement home in the Nashville, Tennessee area while he's been working in Ann Arbor since March 22, 2010.


Dominick Lanza is leaving the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

File: Ryan J. Stanton |

"It's gotten personally too taxing," he said.

Lanza came out of retirement when he was hired for the $108,000 post. He had retired in 2007 as assistant chief of operations with the Broward County Sheriff's Office Department of Fire Rescue in Fort Lauderdale.

Lanza said the prospect of making further cuts at the Ann Arbor Fire Department contributed to his decision.

"It probably made the decision a little bit easier," he said. "I've been thinking about it for a while."

In total, Lanza spent 37 years in the fire service and said he doesn't expect to return. He had planned to work at the Ann Arbor Fire Department until age 65, but it simply didn't work out that way, he said.

Lanza plans to spend more time with his six grandchildren, riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle through the Tennessee mountains and working on restoring a 1957 Chevrolet. He enjoyed his time in the city, he said, and will sit down with city officials in the coming weeks to discuss a potential replacement.

“I got a lot of satisfaction of working with people out in the public and being able to help people,” he said.

Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones, who serves as safety services administrator, couldn't immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.

City Administrator Roger Fraser said it's too early to tell how the city will go about finding a replacement.

In his resignation letter, Lanza notes the department has a newly promoted assistant chief and says he'll spent the next month preparing both chiefs to continue programs that are scheduled to get under way or are scheduled to start, such as budget preparation.

Lanza replaced former fire chief Samuel Hopkins, who also made note of the city's budget challenges when he resigned in October 2009. He had been the fire chief for four years.

In an e-mail to the fire department, Hopkins wrote, "During these tough economic times, it is difficult to make up for the poor administrative decisions that were made during more prosperous periods. Therefore this city finds itself in financial difficulties. In order to salvage the budget problems, the decision makers are planning to ask our members to sacrifice so that this city can attempt to recover economic stability going forward. In leaving, I pray that your safety and the safety of this beautiful city isn't part of the casualties of your sacrifice."

Lanza's resignation letter, obtained by, did not discuss the city's financial situation. Instead, he wrote of the stress on his family and how he enjoyed serving the city for 11 months.

4 p.m.: This story was updated with information on the previous fire chief and a comment from Roger Fraser.

Lee Higgins is a reporter for He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at



Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

I do not blame Chief Lanza. I wish him a nd his family the best of luck.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

Good luck Chief. I was in your shoes 10 years ago as the interim chief. A heart attack at the station probably saved my life, and I sadly left the AAFD. The Mayor has had it in for the FD for a long time, dismantling an award-winning department piece by piece. I still do not know why...Roger Fraser can only do what the Mayor and Council tell him to do, and I know he values an excellent FD and has tried to shield public safety over the years. This Mayor is hell-bent on destroying the FD. Is the city still funding the dog parks? Is the city still installing a fancy fountain? Is the city still in the money-losing golf business? The priorities have been skewed for many years and will continue to be skewed as long as this Mayor and Council reign. There is not a decent professional chief existing that will take that job under these conditions. while the pay is good, the toll is heavy for anyone that values citizen and firefighter safety...


Thu, Feb 17, 2011 : 12:52 a.m.

I'm thinking Gorman is available as soon as all the court cases in Texas City are cleared up! What a shame!


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

It's a sad state of affairs when Ann Arbor can't keep a fire chief for more than a year. It's no wonder, no chief wants to watch a professional firefighting department be gutted by the mayor and the city administrator. I also need to take Ann to task for burying the story about intermittent closures of Station #3 in the Sunday paper. This is exactly how the shutdown of Station #2 started. Don't think for an instant that Fraser & Co. won't try to permanently close Station #3 as well.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

Just a hunch. I bet he's had enough of the city council. No doubt the council will have to hire a consultant to find a new chief since those in the current administration don't seem to do well at the decision making process. Why does Ann Arbor have a Mayor, Council and a city administrator? Isn't that redundant?


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

Anybody know the time to vest for benefits?


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Regardless of what you believe, no. Ann Arbor is the place where professionals stop by to see that there's nothing they can fix under the dictatorship of Fraser. Look at the history if you question that statement.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

I would not be surprised if some benefits have accrued, even with one year of service. Ann Arbor must have a super reputation as a great city for professionals to stop off at for a few years to top off their retirement portfolios.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

5 Years.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 6:03 a.m.

One winter here will do it to you after living in Florida most your life , another best for A2.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 5:53 a.m.

2 chiefs in 5 years.Not good.It came down to MONEY issues like it almost always does. Spin it doctors ANY way you want as long as you ad plenty of $$$$$$$$$$ to the text.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

Kind of reminds me of a Bob Seger song: Took a look down a westbound road, Right away I made my choice Headed out to my big two-wheeler, I was tired of the City Councils voice Took a bead on the northern plains And just rolled that power on Roll me away, wont you roll me away tonight I too have lost and am feeling double crossed Best Wishes Chief


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

Think the city will spend money on a consultant to find a new fire chief? I bet so.

John of Saline

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

Wonder how big his pension is, from this and past jobs.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:21 p.m.

Chief Lanza, A sincere thanks and best wishes to you and the fire department. I was able to watch them perform admirably last summer when they went after the Huron River petroleum/phosphoric spill, but then had to turn it over to the UofM DPS, as "U of M was taking responsibility for the incident since the storm water pipe came from the UofM property" (AAFD narrative incident report, July 19th). I am saddened to see cuts being made to the department, as I do understand the importance of fire/police services in the city. Few Ann Arborites saw the AAFD work that day, but I saw it and I appreciated it. With regard to that spill, if you could shed any light on what happened, what spilled, where it came from and why no one was ever charged... then that would be appreciated. I wish you the best and a sincere thank you for the work that the AAFD did that day -- I won't forget it.

steve h

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

please stop with the spill


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

The fire fighters have a hard job and are unfortunately going to have to continue getting cuts in manpower until they're ready to take cuts in pay and I don't think less than 15% will do it. Death by a thousand cuts in this case. Those with seniority will hang on while the younger firefighters will be sent packing. Performance doesn't mean anything in a union, only seniority, so if you can hang on long enough and make it look like you're doing the bare minimum you'll be fine. Doesn't work that way in the real world, but it's not their money it's ours...........or is it?

CSI Junkie

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

I believe the FFD is the only department to take cuts thus far..........that still let to layoffs. What about the other departments. Also how can you pit the senior fifrefighters against the younger ones. I believe they should be judged on their performance ability and experience should count for something. I know I am not physically capable of doing their job nor do I have their knowledge but I am thankful for everyone of them.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

Who would want the difficult job of working towards a solution to past problems? It pays the same to go to a city without these problems if you can find one; good luck with that. The general public has been feeling the pain for a few years now while the stimulus money kept the problems hidden. Time to pay the piper, no easy way out anymore because the taxppayers are broke and don't want to pay more taxes and reduce their standard of living any further.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Over the past 5 years my property taxes have risen from $6300 to $6700. Where does all the money go?


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Over the past 10 years, the city's income has gone up $30 millon dollars. Where did all THAT money go? Pet projects maybe?

Rod Johnson

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:14 a.m.

There's your answer then. You're paying John B.'s taxes!

John B.

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

Dunno. Mine have gone down during that time period.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Not to worry about all the future cuts. We will still have the "fountain of hope" placed nicely in front of the new expensive city hall addition.

Dog Guy

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

There are several members of the AAFD who could do a good job as chief. I doubt that any of them would want to cooperate with the politicians and sign off on dangerous and stupid but politically correct decisions.

Buster W.

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

Dominick hasn't even been here a year and he says, "I've been thinking about it for a while."


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

"I'm profoundly disappointed in firefighters grocery shopping and making excuses for how it doesn't compromise public safety." This is one of THE weakest arguments I have heard! I have asked before WHEN and How would you have the firefighters get their groceries? With no response! I might add.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 4:05 a.m.

"....At which time if the alarm goes off they wait... your threat is duly noted "jcj" "Time to find a new "reason" to be dissapointed in your firefighters Craig" not really truth, because the only reason I have is valid.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 1:05 a.m.

Craig When you are on the job and take a lunch I suspect that you would not do work related task. If you do then I would say most expect that their lunch hour is their time and they don't work on their time. So maybe you would prefer that they do their shopping on their time and take a 30 minute or 60 minute break. At which time if the alarm goes off they wait until their break is through. Which is what happens with " every other working stiff"

try your best

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

Again, if this is a pubic safety issue why would management allow this practice of grocery shopping on duty. Because it is not. look around the United States and you will see this practice of grocery shopping with your fire truck at nearly all career dept's. Time to find a new "reason" to be dissapointed in your firefighters Craig

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 11:45 p.m.

with all due respect yourdad i have a full time job too. So why should I do their grocery shopping? They aren't volunteer firemen. And to kick the dead dog again my only concern is that response time is compromised when they are in the grocery store. At least one fireman in here disputes that. Having lived in Ann Arbor for 29 years and driven through nearly every neighborhood in town I disagree that he can get from the deli counter at Hillers or the Krogers on Carpenter road out the door, into the truck, out of the parking lot on to a main road faster than he can from the fire station. As to signing a waiver and riding along i think that option disappeared with my stance on their grocery shopping. I use my real name while posting so all those guys by now know who i am, where I live and probably think I'm a jerk at best. But I will reiterate that I am not anti fire department. I will repeat that I would gladly give up other city services for them to have more firefighters, more trucks, more open stations.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

Hey Craig, the unfortunate reality is that these FF's don't get to work with the same crew members every day that they work, so meal planning would be quite difficult. Some of the time they get mandatoried for overtime, this too would make meal planning very tough. Maybe you should actually step up and do something for your community like collect their money everyday and do the shopping for them. Or better yet, spend some time riding with them (if you dare to sign a serious waiver), and see just what is on the other side of the argument.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

"This is one of THE weakest arguments I have heard!" why do you say that? Are you saying response time isn't compromised or that response time is overrated? "I have asked before WHEN and How would you have the firefighters get their groceries? With no response! I might add." The same way every other working stiff gets their groceries..on their own time.

Oscar Lavista

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Regardless of any firehouse politics that may or may not be involved in Chief Lanza's decision, good luck to him. I wish we still had a newspaper with reporters who had time and resources to dig into stories though.

Seasoned Cit

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

Hope he's not eligible for a nice retirement benefit.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

"Ann Arbor Fire Chief Dominick Lanza has resigned, citing a desire to be closer to ... looming cuts to the fire department." HELL-O grammar checker ... Unpleasantly funny.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

Best of luck on your future years and I hope you enjoy them. I'm guessing you are a man who takes pride in their work. Hard to do that in this environment. Best of luck.....and hope that '57 Chevy brings your joy!


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Sad news . . . Best wishes Chief Lanza . . . It's doubtful that anyone here blames you for looking for something better than sticking around here, snapping up whatever crumbs are leftover from the folly fountain . . . Now City Hall can do what it does best . . . hire a consultant . . . and begin a lengthy and expensive formal process to hire a new person for the position . . . It's highly inefficient at the least. It's highly demoralizing and degrading to fire fighters and life savers, at best.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

It appears the City did a brilliant job searching for just the right applicant for this job. Not one person on the current staff willing/available to do this job? Let's see how much the City will be willing to spend on another applicant search.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

"...he's been working in Ann Arbor since March 22, 2010." "His resignation is effective March 25." That would put his service time to about 3 days past 1 year. Does the 1 year mark trigger anything with respect to post employment benefits that wouldn't happen if he resigned earlier?


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

@Truth. Well, I've been spending the day combating the abundance of ignorant comments from posters today. I missed the 'a' in that sentence. My apologies. Guess after dealing with so many self-proclaimed experts in this city, I feel victim to one incident of 'speed reading'. So I'm sorry.

try your best

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

I will try and be clearer next time

try your best

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

bornNraised, I was refering to the number on side of the fire truck not the number of people on the fire truck. I bet they they love you at the fire station!

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

"No truck in the city holds 5 people. You often see that do ya?" The way read Truth he/she wasn't claiming to see 5 people in a truck, rather a truck with the number 5 on it downtown.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

BornNRaised, I thought Truth was referring to a fire truck labeled as #3, #4 or #5, not the number of people on the truck.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 11:27 p.m.

@Truth. No truck in the city holds 5 people. You often see that do ya?

steve h

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

your thinking is illogical

try your best

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

Why would the fire chief or city administrater allow the firefighter's to compromise public safety?

try your best

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

Craig, if grocery shopping is compromising public safety then that argument can be made several times a day because i see fire trucks driving around the city all the time. I often see a fire truck with a 3 or 4 or 5 on it downtown at station one. so maybe this isn't a union issue but a management issue.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

Truth, I'll send the letters I said I would. I'll go to bat for firefighter jobs like I said I would. And I'm not mad at firefighters grocery shopping , I'm profoundly disappointed in firefighters grocery shopping and making excuses for how it doesn't compromise public safety.

try your best

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

and your still mad at grocery shopping firefighter's.

try your best

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Craig, as long as your writing the mayor and city council ask where all that money is going that they have saved on fte's (full time employe) cuts. Since the city uses 100,000 per fte as a means to put together a budget...tens of millions of dollars have been saved in the last 7 or 8 years. they will tell you pension and health care, with a straight face.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Craig, I don't know what I can say to you to make you realize the reality of what we do. We're ALWAYS in service. So, when someone has an accident on the freeway, or in the "shopping district", I guess it was really beneficial to be there. You can split hairs on this until you're blue in the face. If we're on the freeway cutting someone out of a car, I suppose you're going to be mad that we can't get to your house fast. BTW, we can get out of Hiller's a whole lot faster than from a call. We go at low call and low traffic times. Believe it or not, we actually plan this stuff out to benefit folks like you. Your gratitude is much appreciated.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

I have no reason to disbelieve you BNR. I'm not anti fire department , I'm just anti fire department grocery shopping at Krogers in Pittsfield township 4 blocks from a Pittsfield township fire department in the company truck when its the only company truck at the station because it compromises response time. I'd rather give up a bunch of other city services so you guys could have two trucks at #4 and reopen the one over on Packard and stadium. And I will write the city council and mayor and say as much. I also will never put a "firemen please save my pets" sign in my window because I'd rather lose my two little dogs I love than have you risk your life in my burning house. Just don't lie to me that you can respond to an emergency from the deli counter at Hillers as fast as you can from the fire house. Because thats where you lose me.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

It was going to either be you or one other person to ask that first... You may not believe it, but no. You have to have 5 years to be vested. That's the doing of the past city administrator. Nothing to do with the FD.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

"Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones, who serves as safety services administrator, couldn't immediately be reached for comment this afternoon. City Administrator Roger Fraser also couldn't be reached." Surprise. Put on your seatbelt for the coming spin on this resignation.

Bertha Venation

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

Yes, Alan.... I'm afraid you're correct, but who can blame them?