The City of Peekskill has appointed James E. Seymour IV as the city’s first paid Chief, pending approval at the Common Council meeting on December 27, 2021. After 17 years of service at the Village of Scarsdale Fire Department, Seymour will return to Peekskill where he began his fire service career.
“It is with tremendous pride and enthusiasm that I have accepted the position of Fire Chief of the City of Peekskill Fire Department,” said Chief James E. Seymour IV. “There is no greater honor for me than to serve in this capacity and continue the proud history and traditions of the department where I began my career as a volunteer 25 years ago with Washington Engine Company.”
Chief James E. Seymour IV began his fire service career as a volunteer with the City of Peekskill Fire Department in 1995 at the age of eighteen. He was then hired by the City of Peekskill as a career firefighter in 2001, continuing to serve Peekskill until transferring to the Village of Scarsdale Fire Department in 2004. Similar to Peekskill, the Scarsdale Fire Department is a “combination department” with 46 career firefighters and 50 volunteer firefighters. During his tenure with the Scarsdale Fire Department, Seymour has served as Firefighter, Captain, and Municipal Training Officer, and ultimately Chief, a position he has held since 2016.
“As the Mayor of this great city, I am thrilled to welcome Chief Seymour back to Peekskill as our first full-time Fire Chief,” said Mayor Andre Rainey. “As my term concludes, I’m very thankful our City Manager, staff, and council understand the needs of our community and have all agreed to invest in our fire department. This is the beginning of a very necessary, positive, and encouraging change. ”
“Chief Seymour’s experience as both a volunteer and paid firefighter as well as leading a combination department in Scarsdale makes him uniquely suited to lead the City of Peekskill firefighters, both volunteer and paid, as the Department grows to meet the needs of a dynamic small city,” said City Manager Andy Stewart.
“I have known Jim since his childhood and am very excited to see him re-joining the Peekskill Fire Department as our first paid chief,” said Lenny Varella, former Fire Chief and current President of the Peekskill Volunteer Fire Association. “I support the creation of a paid chief position in Peekskill, though I understand this change is felt by some of our members as a disruption of our traditional form of leadership.”
“I have known Jimmy for many years, he has put in his time and advanced through the ranks, and I wish him all the best in his leadership of the Department,” said Chief John Rose.
The public is invited to join the annual organizational meeting of the City Council at the Central Firehouse on Saturday, January 1, at 11:00 AM, to witness the swearing-in of Chief Seymour and elected assistant chiefs Michael Sniffen, John Kelly, and James Sniffen, pursuant to their election on Friday, December 10, 2021. The meeting will be hybrid, enabling both in-person and remote participation.
The Peekskill Fire Department has 24 paid staff and 54 volunteers, and has always been managed by elected volunteer chiefs since its early days as an all-volunteer operation. In recent times, the bulk of daily fire incident responses has been provided by paid staff with dedicated volunteers providing essential support, especially on larger fires. In the face of declining volunteerism in Peekskill and throughout the nation, combined with the city’s growth in population and new construction along with the need for full-time management, the City Council commissioned an independent study of the city fire department by retired Chief Ed Rush, available on the city website since March 2021. Pursuant to Chief Rush’s recommendation of adding a paid full-time chief to the Department, the city council held public meetings and ultimately public hearings on amendments to the city code and charter to create a paid chief position. The amended city code and charter to make a full-time chief position was adopted on November 22, 2021, with the explicit intent of bolstering volunteer recruitment and retention and providing compliance with NYS regulations which have put training requirements out of reach of many volunteers.