Linden Neighborhood Conversation

Melanie Crabill
Director of Media Relations
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Kevin Kilbane
Director of Communications
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Media Advisory
News Date: July 15, 2021

Safety Director Ned Pettus, Jr., Announces Retirement

After 40 years of service to the City of Columbus, Public Safety Director Ned Pettus, Jr., today announces his retirement.  “Serving this city has been my honor and privilege. This is the community that made me. It is a part of who I am, and always will be,” Pettus said. “But as I approach my 70th birthday, the time has come to focus full-time on my family.”

Pettus spent 35 years with the Columbus Division of Fire, starting in 1977. He rose through the ranks to become the city’s first African American Fire Chief in 2002. In his 10 years as Fire Chief, the Division achieved one of the first international accreditations by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International in the United States. Under his direction, Columbus was also recognized as the first fire department in Ohio to implement a web-based Statewide Emergency Response Plan, which served as a model for the entire country. 

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther appointed Pettus Director of Public Safety on August 1, 2016. In the five years since, Pettus oversaw significant changes in Public Safety. Among them: the addition of body-worn cameras for Columbus Police officers, the installation of the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system in four Columbus neighborhoods, the replacement of Fire Stations 2 and 16, and the opening of Fire Station 35 and Police Substation 1.  

He worked with Mayor Ginther on the selection of new leadership for the divisions of Police and Fire.  Along with appointing Jeffrey Happ as Fire Chief, he appointed the city’s first female Assistant Fire Chief, Tracy Smith.  Historic firsts in the Division of Police included the appointment of Chief Elaine Bryant, the first female African American Chief and first external candidate, the creation of the rank of Assistant Chief of Police, the establishment of a Civilian Police Review Board and Office of Inspector General, and the creation of Cadet Programs for both Police and Fire.  The Cadet Programs have helped to dramatically improve diversity in both divisions. In the last year, both the Police and Fire academies seated the most diverse recruit classes in a generation.

“Director Pettus has been a guiding force in the effort to strengthen and improve our city’s most essential services,” said Mayor Ginther. “He has implemented changes and reforms that resulted in safety forces that better reflect and serve our community. I am grateful for his leadership and decades of dedication.”

Pettus is a lifelong resident of Columbus, graduating from Linden McKinley High School. Over his career, Pettus obtained a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from the Fielding Graduate University in California.  In addition, he completed the prestigious Harvard University Senior Executives in State and Local Government Certification. He was named the International Fire Chief’s Association “Metro Fire Chief of the Year” in 2009 and earned numerous other honors.  

Pettus’ first day of retirement is September 1.