PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the appointment of Interim Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta to the position of Fire Chief and Police Commander Ty Lewis to the position of Police Chief.
Stornetta has been serving as the interim fire chief for Paso Robles for the past six months and his appointment as chief took effect immediately. Lewis’ appointment to chief will take effect when current police chief Robert Burton retires on June 25.
Normally, staff appointments would be included on the Council’s consent agenda and wouldn’t be discussed during the public meeting, but City Manager Tom Frutchey said he made an exception for these two appointments.
“Because of the nature of the service from the two individuals involved, I wanted to ensure that the Council and the community had a chance to appreciate these two individuals,” Frutchey said.
Frutchey said that the City launched two different recruitments efforts for the position of fire chief. During the first recruitment, Stornetta said that he didn’t feel ready for the position and passed. After failing to find a suitable candidate for the position, the City named Stornetta interim chief and launched a second recruitment six months later. During the second recruitment, several panels made up of Chamber of Commerce members, building advisory committee members, firefighters’ union members and a panel consisting of other county fire chiefs considered Stornetta along with one other outside candidate.
“Throughout that entire process, Mr. Stornetta has shown how quickly he had grown (along with) his abilities as fire chief and just the things he and his department have accomplished during his six months as interim fire chief,” Frutchey said. “It made it very clear that we had one very outstanding candidate for fire chief.”
Two members of the public spoke in support of Stornetta, who received a round of applause after his appointment to fire chief.
“I can tell you that Mr. Stornetta comes from good roots, from good stock,” said Paso Robles resident Michael Rivera. “He’s a good choice and he’s a good man and I look forward to him leading the fire department into the future. I totally endorse him and I think he’s a great guy.”
Frutchey said that the City had two strong internal candidates for the police chief position and decided to forego an outside recruitment, eventually deciding to promote Cmd. Ty Lewis, who has been with the department since 2002 in a variety of capacities.
“He has managed all of the department functions at one time or another including patrol and detective and all of the specialty functions,” Frutchey said, adding that Lewis also earned his Master’s Degree while working for the department. “So, in addition to raising a family and serving as
Frutchey also took the opportunity to praise outgoing police chief Robert Burton, who served at the department for 22 years.
“It’s important to understand how far the department has come under Chief Burton’s stewardship,” Frutchey said. “He has served the last five years as chief and during his tenure crime has decreased, gang activity has decreased, illegal drug use and issues have decreased and been addressed much more successfully. There have been zero officer-involved shootings during all of Chief Burton’s tenure and that’s something to be proud of.”
Frutchey said that the department was in turmoil when Burton first became chief in 2013 and was at “a critical turning point.”
“Luckily Chief Burton has the personality and the expertise and the leadership skills to settle the department down and through his thoughtful, calm approach to management of the department, bring the department to its current position.”
Burton took to the podium during the public comment portion of the Council agenda item, speaking as a resident rather than the police chief to throw in his vote of confidence for Lewis.
“I want you to know that I’m very proud of Ty Lewis,” he said. “I think he’s done an exceptional job for the department. I know that he will do all the right things for you and will serve this community very, very well. So, as a resident, I fully support this appointment and I’m very excited for him and for the future.”