After a year of searching, the Manhattan Beach Fire Department will finally welcome the city’s 13th fire chief April 8.
Daryn Drum, 53, is a 30-year veteran of emergency services who hopes to bring an inclusive management style to the organization, he said.
“I really believe that leading is relationship-based,” said the recent division chief in charge of administrative services for Heartland Fire and Rescue. “I need to start out building those relationships, not just with city employees and staff, but also with the community.”
City Manager Bruce Moe called Drum an enthusiastic leader who brings a wealth of experience.
"(He) has tremendous interpersonal skills, a positive outlook and a commitment to public service," Moe said. "He is a great fit for our community."
Drum will receive an annual salary of $196,656, according to the Manhattan Beach Human Resources Director Lisa Jenkins.
The new chief takes the helm from interim leader and Police Chief Derrick Abell, who filled in after former Fire Chief Robert Espinosa retired in April 2018.
Espinosa departed following a vote of no confidence from the department with many of the fire fighters declaring his leadership style to be problematic.
Drum said he hopes to move on from this troubled past and reestablish trust within the department.
“I don’t know both sides of the story, but what I can ask that we move forward together and that (the firefighters) trust me unless I give them a reason not to, which will not happen,” Drum added.
Contract negotiations and move to county
The new chief comes on board during a time of flux within MBFD, according to Captain Dave Shenbaum, vice president of the Manhattan Beach firefighters' union.
"We are happy to be able to check one thing off our list and look forward to supporting our new leader through this transition," Shenbaum said.
Shenbaum explained, in addition to working without a fire chief for more than a year, Manhattan Beach fire fighters have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2018—negotiations for which have yet to be discussed publicly.
He added MBFD has also been dealing with the possibility of a move to Los Angeles County fire services, pending the uncertain results of a feasibility study the Manhattan Beach city council requested in February.
The idea of a potential move to county fire has been circulating since neighboring Hermosa Beach made the switch in January 2018, forcing Manhattan Beach to look to further jurisdictions such as Hawthorne, Lawndale and Lomita for mutual aid paramedic services. Redondo Beach is also considering contracting with county fire.
Incoming Chief Drum said the call is ultimately up to city leaders.
“That is a political decision,” he said. “I haven’t had the opportunity to dive into it deeply, but if they ask for my opinion, I’ll do some research and give them the best I have.”
Moe echoed that the potential move to county services is a long-term decision that will require more study and analysis.
"(That) could take 18-24 months if not longer. Given that, Chief Drum now will provide the leadership MBFD needs and keep the department moving forward," he added.
Fire Station No. 2 remodel
Drum also vocalized support for Manhattan Beach’s current capital improvement project to remodel the city’s Fire Station No. 2.
The $8 million overhaul of the aging facility, originally built in 1954 at the corner of Rowell Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, will make it suitable to house female firefighters. That's an important move for the future, said Drum.
“I honestly believe that our workforce needs to be reflective of our community. It’s important that we bring as many different viewpoints, experiences and cultures into our organization as we can,” he said.
The San Diego native, who currently resides in Ramona, an unincorporated area of San Diego county, said he is uncertain whether he will relocate his family to the South Bay, but noted he will be looking for ways to engage the community.
“I believe if you’re going to lead an organization, you need to be present and engaged,” Drum expressed, adding that he has been meeting with members of the department for coffee prior to his start date.
The one-time Chair of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs’ Association’s working group brings a history of management experience to the table, including service as union president and chief labor negotiator for the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2728.
“I’ve had every role in the fire department,” Drum mused of his career, which includes work as a firefighter, paramedic, engineer, captain, battalion and division chief.
Most recently, Drum has served with Heartland Fire and Rescue, a consolidated fire district comprised of El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove which serves a population of 186,000 people with eight fire stations.
Through the San Diego County Fire Department, Drum was also part of FEMA Urban Search and Rescue.
Drum said service on the task force took him to the front lines of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
But, he explained, the opportunity to give service—no matter the size of the call—is what makes his job incredible.
“It doesn’t have to be big. It can be when someone’s kid is having an asthma attack—that’s just as important to that parent and child right then and there. It’s incredibly impactful to the person you’re helping,” Drum elaborated. “It’s the greatest job.”