St. Paul Fire Chief steps down, EMS head named Acting Chief

St. Paul Fire Chief Timothy Butler has stepped down after serving for 10 years, Mayor Coleman announced Saturday.

Butler has served as Chief of the Saint Paul Fire Department for 10 years, overseeing a force of 434 firefighters. The Mayor also announced the appointment of EMS Chief Matthew Simpson as Acting Fire Chief.

This change comes after Butler was reprimanded by the deputy mayor for retaliating against an employee who filed a complaint.

Two complaints remain pending, including one filed by the union. Another complaint, filed last year, led Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann to reprimand Butler.

Beckmann wrote in a letter earlier this week, "Your acknowledgment of the complaint and questioning the complaint equates to intimidation by a superior officer. The intimidation could cause a chilling effect on the individual bringing forward other complaints."

Leaders with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 21 in St. Paul told Fox 9 they were surprised to hear the chief was stepping down. Many said it was a chance for new leadership at the top of the department. According to the association, rumors had been floating around the department, but seeing it in print this morning came as a shock.

The news came in the form of a letter to St. Paul's mayor, Chris Coleman. Butler wrote that he will step down effective Monday morning, seeking his former title as Fire Emergency Management and Communications Chief.

"It has been a distinct honor to be the city's fire chief for nearly 10 years," Butler wrote. "Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the Coleman Administration and to serve the people of St. Paul."

To some, the news wasn't too surprising.

IAFF Local 21 secretary Dennis Hall said Butler's decision to step down came at the end of a pretty tumultuous time.

"I think it's very well known in the public that we've had some issues recently," said Hall. "We've been kind of pushing the mayor's office to make decisions on some of the issues we have had in the recent years."

As for Butler's legacy, the mayor's office points to an independent review that found the department was among the best in the nation in terms of fire suppression and response times.

Hall has high hopes for Butler's acting replacement, hoping EMS Chief Simpson will throw his hat in the ring for the job.

"He rose through the department, he's been here for 23 years," said Hall. "He's very well respected."

The union hopes to meet with the mayor's staff in the coming week to discuss the future of the department, but the decision will likely fall to the next mayor.