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Saturday August 19, 2017

Two Lodi battalion chiefs set to retire

By Danielle Vaughn/News-Sentinel Staff Writer

After several decades of dedication and service to the City of Lodi, Battalion Chiefs Pete Iturraran and Todd Luke will be hanging up their fire gear come November.

The news comes on the heels of Fire Chief Larry Rooney announcing that he will retire soon as well as the retirement and resignations of several other key city employees. The city is left with filling the void left by the departure of these individuals, but City Manager Steve Schwabauer says the city is more than prepared for the challenge.

“This is a cycle that happens, it’s very common in municipal organizations. It’s been common in the City of Lodi where we’ll have three, four or five years of stability and then there will be a core group of people that will retire,” Schwabauer said. “The challenge is making sure that we have been successful in succession planning and making sure there are people there to pick up the reins and go with it. I think certainly in the fire department that has been done.”

Schwabauer acknowledged the roles that both Iturraran and Luke have played in preparing the department for their departure.

“Pete and Todd are in some ways not replaceable because they are unique individuals, but what both they and Chief Rooney have done I think is really mentor the staff that’s coming along behind them and brought people in that can hit the ground running. I think Todd and Pete have done a great job bringing in those guys and making them ready to replace them.”

Luke’s firefighting career spans three decades, including over 20 years with the Lodi Fire Department.

“I have been blessed to have such a great job and great people to work with and a career that I’m proud of, and I don’t think I would’ve ever picked a different direction.”

Luke made the difficult decision to retire due to sleep deprivation and the pain in his shoulders and back stemming from injuries sustained while on the job a couple of years ago. He said he will miss being around his fellow firefighters and that his fondest memories have been of the people they were able to help.

With his free time, Luke plans to work his part-time job maintaining lakes and ponds. He also plans to make up for all the vacation and holidays he missed over the years.

“My wife has got to get used to me being home more often,” he chuckled.

Luke has been married to his wife, Sandra, for 35 years. Together they have two sons and three grandchildren.

Iturraran has been with the Lodi Fire Department since June of 1989. After participating in a firefighting program in high school and serving as a firefighter in the Navy, he knew that firefighting was the career for him. Now, nearly 30 years later, Iturraran has come to the realization that its a young man’s game and has decided to retire.

“Its just tine. 28 years is a long time and my body is a little beat up. It needs rest,” Iturraran said.

The camaraderie amongst the firefighters is what Iturraran said he will miss the most.

“It’s like a family here in a sense. It’s not just like a job, you live here with these guys so they are kind of like your second family,” he said.

He recalls his stint as union president as one of his biggest accomplishments during his career.

In his retirement, Iturraran plans to complete repairs on his boat and do a lot of fishing. He’s also looking forward to having a full night of sleep.

Iturraran is the father of two children, Nicohlas and Brooke, who reside in the Bay Area. The retirement will free up more time for Iturraran to visit them.

With both Luke and Iturraran heading for retirement, many of their fellow co-workers and superiors are sad to see them go and expressed their appreciation for their services.

“They are two of the most selfless people that I have ever met,” Stoddart said. “They had an opportunity to retire a couple of years ago, but instead they chose to help out our fire department by assuming those battalion chief positions and allowing us time to develop our future leaders. They were my captains back in the day, and I learned as much from them as much as I did from any other captain. They’re kind, they care about the department and they’re just genuinely great guys.”

Schwabauer also acknowledged the work the two men put in over the years and said he’s sad to see them go.

“Todd and Pete have been remarkable firefighters but they’ve also been remarkable battalion chiefs,” Schwabauer said. “I greatly appreciate the fact that both of them are professional and dignified and have served the city incredibly well. On a very personal note, they’re men that I like a great deal and will miss working with.”

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