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Palm Coast Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2020 4 months ago

Don Petito, Flagler County's Fire Rescue leader for 15 years, retires

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He developed training programs and specialized units in his tenure; he'd also been frustrated on the job for the past year.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Don Petito is retiring as chief of Flagler County Fire Rescue, after 15 years at the helm. He sent a letter to County Administrator Jerry Cameron on July 15, saying he would be using accrued personal leave time from now until his official retirement date of Aug. 21.

“I am excited about my impending retirement but wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and the county for all of the opportunities that I have experienced while working for Flagler County,” Petito wrote. “ … If I can be of any assistance before my departure or afterward, then please let me know. I'd be happy to provide whatever assistance I can to provide a smooth transition to my successor.”

Petito had been considering retirement for the past year; he had also been on administrative leave following an employment complaint against him.

“There was certainly nothing disciplinary that came out of the matter,” Cameron said. “I think it just added to the frustration level.”

Petito's legacy will include upgraded Emergency Medical Services protocols, new training programs, and specialized units. He also helped institute a fire academy at Flagler Palm Coast High School to give students a chance to explore a career as a firefighter.

Cameron added: “I think Don has fought for so long with scant resources, and I think he’d just gotten to a point he didn’t want to undertake what it’s going to take to put this Fire Department on track. … He just has never had the resources that a fire department should have had.”

The employment complaint began when a firefighter “claimed he was being harassed over his ethnicity,” Cameron said. The firefighter was moved to another station, but the problem resurfaced, and he notified the Human Resources department. In a meeting with Petito, the firefighter “said the chief’s demeanor was not to his liking,” Cameron said.

A third-party investigator reviewed the incident, Cameron said, “but that investigation didn’t turn up anything for me, other than some policy changes. It wasn’t an indictment of [Petito].”

Petito also had a disagreement in 2019 with another staff member about who should make what decisions while at the Emergency Operations Center. Later, on Oct. 31, 2019, he told the Palm Coast Observer that he was exploring other job opportunities.

Petito could not be immediately reached for comment about his retirement.

“We are certain Don Petito will continue to make a positive contribution to the community in his future endeavors,” Cameron said in a press release. “We wish him well."

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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