Berkeley fire chief is now interim deputy city manager

Gil Dong has been with the city since 1990. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Gil Dong has been with the city since 1990. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong has stepped into a new position with the city after 25 years in the Fire Department. As of Saturday, Dong is wearing a new hat for Berkeley as the interim deputy city manager.

Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley appointed Dong to the position July 17, according to a memo to the Berkeley City Council. Both Williams-Ridley and Dong began in their new roles Saturday, after the departure of former City Manager Christine Daniel. Friday was Daniel’s last day before beginning a new job for the city of Oakland as assistant city administrator.

Dong started his long career in Berkeley as a firefighter and paramedic in 1990, and steadily moved up through the ranks. He told Berkeleyside, when he became fire chief in 2013, that he believed he had been “destined to become a firefighter.”

Prior to his appointment as fire chief, Dong had been the deputy chief since 2007, serving under former Chief Debra Pryor. Pryor, the nation’s second black female fire chief, retired in December 2012.


Dong, who was the first in his family to be a firefighter, was the highest ranking Asian-American chief officer in the department’s history.

In her memo to council, Williams-Ridley wrote that Dong “exemplifies a strong commitment to public service, leadership and integrity,” and credited his “ability to work across departmental lines” as one that “will serve him well in this next role.”

Avery Webb, who had been deputy fire chief in Berkeley under Dong, has been appointed interim fire chief. Webb has been with the department for 30 years, and in executive command for more than seven.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said no decision has been made about whether Dong will eventually return to the Fire Department or not. Chakko said council will determine who holds the city manager position, and that that person will appoint the bulk of the executive team.

Dong’s appointment is Williams-Ridley’s first as interim city manager.


There has been no shortage of shuffles among leaders in Berkeley’s municipal workforce in the past year. The most recent was Andrew Clough, Public Works director, who retired abruptly last week. Phil Harrington is now the department’s acting director.

In March, Jane Micallef, who ran the city’s Health, Housing and Community Services division, announced she would be leaving in May after 19 years of public service. She had run the division for seven years. The city later appointed Kelly Wallace to run the division on an interim basis.

One week after Micallef’s news, the city announced that IT director Donna Lasala would be leaving Berkeley after 16 years, effective Aug. 4. No replacement has been announced, according to the information posted online.

Berkeley Police Capt. Erik Upson left to become police chief in Benicia in April. Upson had worked for the city for 17 years, his entire career to that point.

On June 2, City Manager Christine Daniel announced she would leave, after working for the city for 15 years, to serve as assistant city administrator in Oakland. Earlier this month, the Berkeley City Council appointed Dee Williams-Ridley, who was hired in January, as interim city manager.


Last year also saw the departures of longtime staffer William Rogers, who was the deputy city manager, and Bob Hicks, the city’s finance director. Daniel reportedly took on Hicks’ job after his departure until March, when she appointed Henry Oyekanmi as acting finance director.

Dong could not be reached for comment prior to publication of this story.

Berkeleyside welcomes news tips from readers. Reach our team by writing to tips@berkeleyside.com or call reporter Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

Related:
Another Berkeley department head to retire (07.22.15)
Op-ed: City manager’s departure is big blow to Berkeley (06.29.15)
Berkeley mayor nominates interim city manager (07.02.15)
City Manager Christine Daniel to leave Berkeley for Oakland (06.02.15)
Berkeley police captain to become Benicia chief (04.08.15)
Dee Williams-Ridley named Berkeley’s deputy city manager (01.09.15)
Berkeley Fire Chief retires after 27 years with many firsts (12.28.12)

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