EL CENTRO — Council members presented an appreciation plaque to Fire Chief Kenneth Herbert for his 31 years of service to the El Centro Fire Department and as director of Disaster Services during the City’s regular meeting Tuesday, July 20, at City Hall.
Tuesday’s Council meeting was the last time Fire Chief Herbert attended as the Fire Department head. His retirement was effective July 20. Cedric Ceseña will serve as the Interim Fire Chief.
The inscription on the plaque read: “Appreciation award presented to Kenneth A. Herbert, Fire Chief/ Director of Disaster Services, for 31 years of outstanding and dedicated service to the City of El Centro. July 1990 to July 2021. Presented by the City of El Centro.”
Among the audience were city officials, police officers, firefighters, and fire department staff. Herbert introduced his wife and their children. Council members and fire department officials spoke about their departing fire chief.
“I enjoyed working with Herbert. He was a servant-leader,” said Interim Fire Chief Cedric Ceseña. According to Ceseña, Herbert prepared a succession plan to ease the continuation of service in the department.
“He did an amazing job with the staff and with the management,” said Captain Chad Whitlock, who became emotional when he spoke about his former boss in front of the Council members.
“You were the calm in the storm, the voice of reason, and the to go person,” said Mayor Cheryl Viegas-Walker who attended the meeting via Zoom. “Thank you for managing the job last year,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic when Herbert provided regular COVID-19 reports.
“You were a tremendous asset to our City,” said Mayor Pro-tem Tomàs Oliva. “You have worked with our City department heads and trained them on safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“I felt a sense of gratitude,” said Herbert, who, at 19-years old, started to work as a firefighter. Two years later, in July 1990, he joined the City’s Fire Department. He rose through the ranks as captain, battalion chief, and fire chief, totaling 33 years as a firefighter.
“I had a great professional life. I am grateful for that,” said Herbert, who spoke intermittently then wiped his eyes.
It was a passion for service that had spanned three decades. “Although I’m not in the daily heat of battle, my heart is for my staff to be equipped with tools to succeed,” said Herbert as department head.
He spoke highly about Lindsay Herbert, his wife, who supported him throughout his career and most especially during the pandemic that demanded long working hours. He also introduced his children.
Even as Herbert addressed the Council, his two-year-old son, Jack, holding his yellow toy car, ran toward his father who scooped up his youngest son. The little boy clapped his hands.
“This is not goodbye, but this is see you later,” said Mayor Viegas-Walker to the retiring fire chief, adding her gratefulness for leaving the department in such a great shape.