Baltimore County Fire Chief Hohman to retire

Baltimore County's longtime fire chief announced Friday that he's retiring at the end of the month.

Chief John J. Hohman has held the top job since 2000, and has worked in the county Fire Department since 1977.

He'll be replaced by Assistant Chief Kyrle W. Preis III. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he will appoint Preis as acting fire chief and will ask the County Council to confirm him as a permanent chief as soon as possible.

In a statement, Kamenetz said that when he was re-elected in 2014, Hohman promised to stay on as chief until he hit his 40-year mark on his career.

"I feel very fortunate that we were able to coax an extra six months out of him," Kamenetz said. "I wish him well as his journey continues."

County officials said Hohman was unavailable for comment Friday, but issued a statement in which he said he was proud to have served the county for 40 years.

"I have confidence that the department will continue to excel," Hohman said. "I am particularly proud of our success in increasing the number of medic units in service, the financial support for volunteer fire companies, and the number of women and minorities in this organization.

The county fire chief oversees 25 fire stations staffed by paid firefighters as well as 35 volunteer fire companies. The county has about 1,000 paid Fire Department employees and more than 2,000 volunteers.

Hohman's retirement comes just a few months after the retirement of the county's police chief.

Former chief Jim Johnson announced his retirement in January and was replaced by Chief Terry Sheridan, though Johnson remained on the county payroll through the end of March. He also received a $117,000 severance package that covered 120 days' worth of pay plus unused vacation time, an arrangement for certain longtime county employees that had not previously been made public.

The county's Executive Benefit Policy for appointed employees, established in 2015, allows for severance payments to top officials "as a result of their separation from county service." An eligible employee with more than 30 years of service would receive 120 days' worth of pay under the policy.

Hohman is not receiving a financial package when he retires, according to Stacie Burgess, a county spokeswoman. She said the circumstances of Hohman's departure are different from Johnson's, but she would not elaborate. Both were officially described as retirements.

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