Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin confirmed Tuesday he has taken a job in Elk Grove and will leave the Merced Fire Department on Feb. 2.
McLaughlin, who has been chief in Merced since 2011, has taken a deputy chief position in the Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Department. That department covers an area that includes the cities of Elk Grove and Galt.
The father of five said some of his children attend community college in the Sacramento area, and he wanted to be closer to them.
“My kids are going to school in the area, and for me, above all else, it’s bittersweet,” McLaughlin, 46, said of his departure. “It’s been an honor for me to be a part of this community and to serve this community.”
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McLaughlin said he takes pride in being able to lead the department during a difficult economic time for the city.
The Fire Department has 24 fewer members than it had in 2008, McLaughlin said. Some of those firefighters were laid off, and others were lost through attrition.
The department continues to work through overtime and staffing issues, according to McLaughlin. “The stuff we’ve accomplished over these last few years has been remarkable,” he said.
Originally from the Bay Area, McLaughlin took a job in Merced in 2007 after serving many years in Alameda County. McLaughlin said he will be involved in evaluating an interim replacement.
City Manager John Bramble said he was aware that McLaughlin was considering a move. “It was an opportunity he and his family couldn’t pass up,” Bramble said.
The city will try to replace McLaughlin with an interim chief, Bramble said, until it can recruit the next chief. He said he has contacted the League of California Cities for assistance in that search.