Nutter taps Derrick Sawyer to be fire commish

Posted: June 06, 2014

MAYOR NUTTER yesterday announced that Derrick Sawyer will replace retiring Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

Sawyer, a 29-year Fire Department veteran and Northeast Philly resident, is deputy commissioner of operations. He has degrees from the Community College of Philadelphia and Holy Family University, and is pursuing a graduate degree in homeland security at the Naval Postgraduate School.

After 22 years in the Air Force Reserve, Sawyer retired in 2000 as a master sergeant.

The mayor yesterday also unveiled a series of historic appointments in the second tier of the department brass, including Diane Schweizer as the first female deputy commissioner and two new executive directors: Peter Crespo and Yolanda Stallings, who will be the first Latino and female African-American to hold those positions, respectively.

Ayers, who was appointed commissioner in 2004 by former Mayor John Street, has served in the department since 1974 and has held every rank.

Nutter lauded Ayers' implementation of a broad range of policy changes during the mayor's tenure, including a new shift schedule, improvements to the city's 9-1-1 system, mass distribution of smoke detectors and a fire-prevention strategy called "community risk reduction." Nutter said those policies are the reason Philadelphia last year recorded only 24 civilian fire deaths, the fewest in the department's history.

Many of those changes have also led to tumultuous battles with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22. Ayers sometimes took the brunt of criticism of the administration's policies, defending them before City Council panels. He said yesterday that criticism is just "part of the job."

Ayers grew up in North Philadelphia and now lives in the Andorra section of Upper Roxborough with his wife, Annette. They have six children. He participated in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, and will receive a payout of more than $500,000 when he steps down on June 14.

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN


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