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Clearwater's interim fire chief bring decades of experience to post

CLEARWATER — Robert Weiss rose through the ranks of Tampa Fire Rescue, retiring as personnel chief in 2003 after 25 years with the department.

But he wasn't ready to hang up his gear.

When a division chief position opened up across the bay in Clearwater two years later, Weiss jumped at the opportunity for a simple reason: "I love the fire service," he said Tuesday.

He was hired by Clearwater Fire & Rescue in February 2005 and promoted to deputy chief in July 2008.

On Monday, he was named the city's interim fire chief when his boss, former Chief Jamie Geer, was fired after being arrested on a charge of capital sexual battery.

According to authorities, Geer sexually abused a girl for several years beginning when she was 8 or 9 years old and continuing until August. The girl is now 17. Geer remained jailed Tuesday in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Weiss said Tuesday that his main concern is that the residents of Clearwater and surrounding areas don't see any disruption of service with the change of command.

"This is a tragic event and each individual will handle that accordingly, but in terms of providing service, it's not going to have an impact on delivering services," he said.

In recent months, Weiss, 61, has taken a more visible role in the department, giving presentations to the City Council on issues like fire station construction and renovation and equipment specifications and purchasing.

He makes $89,000 annually.

Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Thomas Forward worked with Weiss for about two decades.

"Bob is extremely capable," Forward said, and was "very well-respected" by his colleagues in Tampa.

As a former union president, Weiss was well-versed in both the day-to-day work of firefighter-paramedics and the administrative side of the industry, Forward said.

"I think the city of Clearwater can rest assured that they have a very, very capable skipper at the helm," Forward said.

It's not clear how long Weiss will remain in charge. City Manager Bill Horne said Tuesday that he didn't plan to rush a search for a permanent replacement for Geer.

"I am confident that interim (chief) Bob Weiss can run the department efficiently and effectively as we sort out what the next step should be," he said.

Times staff writer Mike Brassfield and Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Clearwater's interim fire chief bring decades of experience to post 12/14/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 8:04pm]
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