Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Lipski Appointed Fire Chief For One Year

Fire & Police Commission could open up internal search process next year.

By - May 24th, 2021 04:10 pm
Aaron Lipski. Photo from the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Aaron Lipski. Photo from the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Aaron Lipski can drop “acting” from his business cards. He’s now simply the fire chief in Milwaukee.

But that’s only until the term of his predecessor, Mark Rohlfing, ends on May 17th, 2022.

Rohlfing became chief in 2010, but retired on October 30th before his current four-year contract expired. Lipski, then the assistant chief, was promoted to acting chief.

On Thursday, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission authorized Lipski to serve out the remainder of Rohlfing’s term.

“I really appreciate him,” said Commissioner Amanda Avalos. “I really believe the Milwaukee Fire Department has been able to do consistently so much for this city on a daily basis because of his leadership.”

“He has my support as well,” said Everett Cocroft, a retired MFD lieutenant. “I would like to have him finish out Chief Rohlfing’s term and then open it up internally because it’s the fair thing to do.”

The board voted 4-0 to give Lipski the remainder of the term. Members Angela McKenzie and Ann Wilson were absent.

“Thank you,” said Lipski.

“You are very welcome. Look forward to working with you,” said commission chair Nelson Soler.

“Likewise, thank you so much,” responded Lipski. That was the extent of his remarks on the matter.

Lipski joined the fire department in 1997 and has steadily risen in the ranks. He was promoted to the role of battalion chief in 2010, deputy chief in 2012 and assistant chief in 2019. He previously worked for a private ambulance company.

The chief holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in public administration from UW-Milwaukee.

The Lipski family has a long history with the Milwaukee Fire Department. Lipski’s great grandfather, grandfather and father were all Milwaukee firefighters, as were a series of uncles and great uncles. There has been a Lipski on the force every year since 1912.

The chief received more than a dozen letters in support of his candidacy, including from Mayor Tom Barrett.

“Chief Lipski has stepped up in many notable ways during his current leadership of the department,” wrote Barrett. “He has successfully navigated through the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing strong support to our public health response; he has taken a solution-oriented approach to challenges such as the withdrawal of a private ambulance provider – a big disruption in our emergency medical system; and, he has successfully tapped into expertise within his department and elsewhere in city government.”

“He has proven to be dedicated, relentless and forthright while attempting to make the Milwaukee Fire Department more reflective of the city it serves, while maintaining the outstanding service and professionalism of the Fire Department,” wrote Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters president Sharon P. Purifoy. The brotherhood is a union representing Black firefighters. “We have found Chief Lipski not just to be lip service; he has rolled up his sleeves and has gotten in the trenches with us to complete the mission. Chief Lipski’s open minded approach and willingness to learn has made it easy to work with and for him.”

Lipski’s older brother Daniel retired as a deputy chief from the Milwaukee Fire Department in March.

And while hiring a new fire chief has been a straightforward affair, chaos looms with the police chief search. Last week a judge ordered that demoted chief Alfonso Morales must be reinstated within 45 days if a settlement is not reached.

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