WASHINGTON — Fairfax County, Virginia, has a new fire chief: the former chief of Howard County, Maryland’s department.
John S. Butler’s appointment Wednesday takes effect Sept. 1.
Appointed Howard County’s chief in 2014, Butler had served in other capacities as well, including battalion chief, emergency medical services chief and administrative chief. In addition, Butler served in the Marine Corps for 21 years and for two combat tours.
Butler takes over a troubled department. Fairfax County Fire and EMS has been under scrutiny following the April 2016 suicide of a female firefighter. Nicole Mittendorff had been subjected to crude online postings — allegedly by others in the department.
In January, former battalion chief Kathleen Stanley claimed, in a letter of resignation, that “Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tolerates, and often defends, sexual harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment.”
Butler’s predecessor, Richard Bowers, announced his retirement in April after new allegations of bullying and other harassment surfaced.
In a statement from Fairfax County, officials noted that Butler hired “the most diverse firefighter/paramedic trainee class” in the Howard County department’s history, and that he helped establish the first and only local affiliate of the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services.
“His proven experience and successful leadership at the helm of a large department will continue to strengthen our culture and contribute to a positive future for the department,” County Executive Bryan Hill said in the statement.