CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mayor Mufi Hannemann congratulated Kenneth Silva yesterday. Silva will succeed Attilio Leonardi as the new Honolulu Fire Department chief on Jan. 15.
Next chief takes promotion in stride
Kenneth Silva is the unanimous choice of the Fire Commission
HONOLULU'S next fire chief received the news of his promotion Monday night and got right down to business -- family business.
"My wife was bringing our daughter home from soccer practice when I got the call," Kenneth G. Silva said. "It was real exciting news. Then I reheated some leftovers and helped my son with his math quiz. I'm a career firefighter, but I'm also a dad and husband."
Silva, a 45-year-old assistant chief, was selected by the Honolulu Fire Commission from five finalists and will become the new chief after Chief Attilio Leonardi steps down on Jan. 15.
The Honolulu Fire Commission and Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced Silva's promotion at a news conference yesterday.
Silva, a 1978 Kamehameha Schools graduate and father of two children, has been with the department for 24 years.
For the last three years, he has been a part of Leonardi's executive team, which consists of his deputy chief and four assistant chiefs. Silva currently serves as the assistant chief in charge of support services and is responsible for the planning, development and execution of fire department programs.
Silva began his HFD career in 1981 and worked his way up the ranks from firefighter to captain to battalion chief before becoming assistant chief in 2002. He was named the fire department's Manager of the Year in 2001.
"Chief Silva is going to do an excellent job," said Leonardi. "He has a charisma about him. He is able to remain calm, able to think on his feet. The only thing he has over me: He's younger."
According to fire commission members, 13 people applied for the fire chief position, however, one later withdrew his name from consideration. A panel screened the applicants and pared the list to five finalists.
"We had a tremendous group of experienced candidates, but ultimately the commissioners unanimously agreed that Ken Silva stood out as being the most qualified person to build upon the accomplishments of Chief Leonardi and lead the Honolulu Fire Department into the future," said Commission Chairman William "Buzzy" Hong.
Leonardi said Silva's first big challenge, "is the budget ... he's going to have to weather battles with the administration about the budget because we've put in for a substantial budget this year."
Leonardi officially retired as HFD Chief in January 2004 but was allowed to stay on the job under an appointment basis in 89-day increments.
The arrangement, approved by the Fire Commission, allowed Leonardi to serve just under the 90-day limit for appointments, to avoid any termination of pension benefits.
Leonardi said the commission wanted him to stick around to finish some projects, particularly the construction of the department's new headquarters at Queen and South streets in Kakaako.
Leonardi has been fire chief since 1998 and was the first chief appointed by the Fire Commission. When he leaves in January, he will have been with the department for 35 years.
KENNETH G. SILVA
Honolulu Fire Department's chief starting Jan. 15.
Joined HFD in 1981 and rose through the ranks to assistant chief in 2002.
Married with two children; a 1978 Kamehameha Schools graduate.