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Posted on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 : 4:59 p.m.

Ann Arbor fire chief to retire next week, city officials say

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor Fire Chief Samuel Hopkins is retiring at the end of next week, city officials told today.


City Administrator Roger Fraser sent City Council members an e-mail today announcing that Hopkins has conveyed his intent to retire effective Sept. 19.

"Sam has expressed his firm desire that he be able to leave quietly, with no parties, coffees or other celebrations," Fraser said. "We are honoring that."

Hopkins spent 30-plus years with Lansing's fire department before retiring as chief there in the mid-1990s. He came out of retirement to join Ann Arbor's fire department.

"He came to us several years ago and has been an excellent leader of our fire services, while also setting the stage with neighboring fire jurisdictions for future collaborations," Fraser wrote in his e-mail today. "He and the Ypsi city fire chief worked out the currently successful functional fire service arrangement between our two cities that should serve as a model for future discussions with the neighboring townships." was not able to reach Hopkins for comment today. His secretary said he was out of the office until next week.

Hopkins' retirement comes at a time when much pressure is being put on the fire department to change the way it does business and reduce costs. One proposal on the table calls for laying off 14 firefighters in next year's budget.

"There's no question we continue to be under a substantial crunch and we're doing everything we can to deal with that in a positive way," Fraser said.

Fraser has advised City Council it would be appropriate to appoint an interim fire chief sometime in the next two weeks. He said the city will take a look at its options for permanently filling the position after that.

Fraser said he doesn't think budget pressures are a reason Hopkins decided to retire. He said it was a planned retirement.

"Sam has actually submitted his retirement papers several times in the last year and a half," Fraser said. "He's been under increasing pressure from his family to resume his retirement. He's 67 years old. We had generally agreed he would leave sometime this fall, so it's not a surprise. We knew this was coming."

Before Hopkins was hired, the city of Ann Arbor had forced out its last three fire chiefs during a five-year period. Hopkins, who had served as Lansing's fire chief from 1987 to 1994, was brought on with the expectation that he would help end years of turmoil within the department, and city officials say he has.

Councilman Leigh Greden, D-3rd Ward, said he thinks the relationship between the fire department and the city's leadership has been positive under Hopkins' watch. He said Hopkins and the firefighters union have worked constructively with the city's leadership as the department has been reorganized and downsized over the last decade.

"Chief Hopkins was extremely dedicated to the firefighters who worked for him, and he was committed to pursuing regional opportunities, which is the wave of the future," Greden said. "We were grateful to have him leave retirement to join us, and I completely understand his desire to return to retirement."

Ryan Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sat, Sep 12, 2009 : 9:30 p.m.

Time for Mr. Fraser to stop boasting about the "functional fire service agreement" that is so successful between the AAFD and YFD. Mutual Aid (ie, I call, you come) and Automatic Mutual Aid (ie, AAFD E4 is dispatched to a reported fire, in Ypsi, at the same time as YFD) are not even close to being new concepts. A2 Twp. and Northfield, Augusta and Pittsfield, Dexter and Scio, are just a few of the county agencies that have had AMA agreements for a long time. What the "Ypsi-Arbor" deal does have that is "new", is the s-t-r-e-t-c-h in response time. They decided, for some reason, to not use the closest available resource (could be the "full time, guaranteed staff"........argue that a different day). You do not have to look at a Washtenaw County map for too long, to wonder why Ypsi is going to fires in Ann Arbor, or why A2 sends an engine to the NE edge of Ypsi's response area. The idea that, I need help but I can wait for it to cross multiple jurisdictions is odd considering that "seconds count". Mr. Fraser is excited that talks are being had with other jurisdictions too, like A2 Twp and Pittsfield, but has failed to acknowledge that those talks have already been had, and that every department in the county, and some that border it (Green Oak, Belleville, VanBuren......), have the ability to enter into an AMA agreement. Chief Hopkins has done an outstanding job explaining the fire service, and potential ways to improve the delivery of it in our area, to political figures that prefer to turn it into lay-off, or stop hiring, and just use other jurisdictions. Congratulations on your retirement Chief, you are a first class leader, stay safe.


Sat, Sep 12, 2009 : 4:17 p.m.

Didn't the Firefighters union make donation to Greden's campaigns?


Sat, Sep 12, 2009 : 9:06 a.m.

More lies from Fraser, I know for a fact why Sam retired. It is because of the cities proposed cuts to the fire department. Fraser is playing a game with the lively hood of 14 dedicated employees and, if he has his way, he will also be endangering the lives of every citizen and worker in the city of Ann Arbor.


Fri, Sep 11, 2009 : 10:18 a.m.

Very unfortunate that the city will be loosing Chief Hopkins! He has worked hard to bring the department back up to where it should be for the cities residents, students and guests. As for Fraser......he gets another notch in his belt and feather in his cap for forcing a leader out. Fraser ='s UNION BUSTER and furthermore, look at what he did in MN before he came here! Citizens of Ann Arbor, watch out!!!


Fri, Sep 11, 2009 : 8 a.m.

Sit in a council meeting and listen to Fraser speak sometime. I wouln'd trust this snake one bit. He's speaking as to why the Fire Chief is leaving? Hmmm... I'd rather hear directly from the Fire Chief himself. I'm sure there's WAY more to this story that what we're hearing.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Sep 11, 2009 : 6:13 a.m.

I guess its time to start that nationwide search. In the mean time we can parade a series of temporary chiefs in and out who can each stay just long enough to maximize their retirement level.