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New chief for the Nation's Capital: Sarasota County's Kenneth Ellerbe. Retiree from DC with controversial employment arrangement during Rubin administration.

Previous coverage of Chief Kenneth Ellerbe

Release listing accomplishments of Chief Dennis Rubin’s administration

Previous coverage of Chief Dennis Rubin

Two TV station’s in Washington, DC (WJLA-TV & WRC-TV) are confirming that Kenneth Ellerbe, fire chief in Sarasota County, Florida, will be announced by Mayor-elect Vincent Gray later today as the next fire chief in Washington, DC.  

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe in a Sarasota County photo.

This will be Ellerbe’s second stint in the chief’s office for the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department. Between April and July, 2000, Ellerbe was interim chief following the sudden resignation of Tom Tippett, who was also an interim chief. Mayor Williams appointed Ronnie Few to take over from Ellerbe. 

Kenneth Ellerbe took the job in Sarasota County in July of 2009, but still owns a house in DC.  

Last year at this time news surfaced of an unusual arrangementmade during the administration of Chief Dennis Rubin that allowed Ellerbe to take the Florida chief’s job while being on leave without pay as a deputy chief in the District of Columbia. The arrangement would have let Ellerbe receive enhanced retirement benefits by staying employed in DC until his 50th birthday last April. reported a year ago today there was a “Personnel Exchange Agreement”with Sarasota County approved in DC by Assistant Fire Chief Brian Lee and Director of Human Resources Brender Gregory. 

After the details of the arrangement surfaced, it was rescinded and Ellerbe officially resigned from the DC Fire & EMS Department on January 15 of this year.


Comments - Add Yours

  • fireboots

    The Guys and Gals in the nations capital just can not catch a break! I mean WTF, this is the best they could come up with?

  • Anonymous

    let the demotions, company closing’s and layoffs begin

  • concerned fireman

    I thought in the fire service your always looking to move forward not move backwards. God help us all…..

  • Joe Herndin

    Not to nitpick, but they spelled ‘Fire Marshal’ as ‘Fire Marshall’ in Rube’s list of accomplishments. Doesn’t anyone spell check their documents these days?

  • FD

    I can’t wait to see Ellerbe’s choices for AFC!

  • HaHaHa

    The guys and gals back this guy for mayor and he picks who he wants when he wins… Good Luck with your new admin and staff. It is going to be a great ride

  • Lt FD Seattle

    WTF? I’m flashing back to Marion Barry. What is wrong with DC?

  • Anonymous

    I feel sorry for you guys. Good luck to you.

  • Clark de Bear

    …and it begins…

  • Outa Town

    Its all about who you know….and what dirt you have on them. Thats the only thing I can think of that would explain the cluster**** DCFD has been for the last…..well since they drained the swamp and started building houses there.

    Rank and file people seem pretty straight but letting the mayor choose the department heads leaves you with this kinda crapola. Didnt anybody in the new mayors team bother to tell him this guy has already put a smudge on the departments rep?

  • Outa Town

    Ya know, on second thought, YES! Maybe this WAS the best they could come up with! Not too many qualified chiefs want to touch that mess and risk messing up their resume.

  • HallwaySledge

    For as much crap as Chief Rubin got every week testifying about the ongoings of the DCFD the administrators choose to pull this? I don’t care if every little thing about this is above-board, highly doubtful, the appearance is the exact opposite. The appearance is what people see.

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  • the ear

    What a poor excuse for a fire chief. The members of DCFD are in for a very rough ride. What a joke.

  • Anonymous

    I know one department that’s not saddened by the news.

  • beachcruiser

    WOW, I’m personally elated Ellerbe didn’t have much longer here in Sarasota. I really feel bad for our brothers and sisters at D.C.F.D. Cover each others back and just remember in his words”you get one bite of the apple”. What a POS!

    When he get’s settled in, ask him how he single handedly saved money here in Sarasota.

  • Anonymous

    Wow……….so much negativity

  • DC_resident

    Seriously, do any of you guys know what you are talking about or live in the city?? Didnt think so.!

    Is he the best? Yes…Why? He did not quit in his probation like your hero (Rubin). He is in his 3rd year in a PhD program, unlike your online degree getting hero.

    He is honest to a fault, and well spoken. I grew up with him and he is admired by his peers in the service. The bottom dwellers do exactly what you are doing. Throw mud from the bottom and hope that it sticks to someone or somebody moving towards the top!

    From what I have seen over the last four years is a scandal and lawsuit laden fire department. I “have” never seen our city’s fire service is such a mess. I would prefer to have someone who is “homegrown, owns a house, and can live” in the “city” to fix the problems.

    My friends in the fire service tell me YES he is the Best that ever did it, and you can tell that by all of the “haters” that wish they could do what he can… and from the looks of Daves blog it has been proven to be true.(Haters everywhere)

    I do not want my “tax dollars” paying for lawsuits and any other type of corruption Dennis Rubin and his administration has burdened this city with. We all are going to suffer if that is the case…

    I guess the world wouldn’t be the world if there were no envious haters…

    Go Kenny…the Norhtwest DC crew is with you…Coolidge Colts till the end!!!

    To the out of town and others negative posters…HATE ON HATERS!

    • Stuart

      @ DC_Resident, Wait… Are you saying that the man who was working for Sarasota while still collecting time toward his retirement in DC is “honest to a fault”? If he was “honest to a fault” then he would have retired outright and moved on to Sarasota. However, instead he got a special deal that he only gave up when he was busted in the news and the city retracted the arrangement.

      That whole arrangement screams more of the same for DC government and DCFEMS. I hold DC in a special place because my family is in the area, and I grew up spending so much time there. I am so disappointed that the Mayor Elect did not take the chance to head in a new direction.

    • Vote for L.or B. for DC Chief

      Sorry DC_Res but as a firefighter that had to work under him he is not honest. My favorite Ellerbe stunt is when you are in a meeting with him and he starts texting while you are in mid sentence, he shows no respect and got none in return. He is clueless at impacting bargaining and a puppet ‘yes man’ to the city manager down here. He shows no spine only an ability to talk without speaking. Glad he is gone!

  • Anonymous

    For all you “Rubin-Riders” you can go with him if you want too. This is just like Bush & Prez Obama. Rubin left that dept in shambles & way over budget. Well guys & gals, someone has to be responsible. The Gravy Train is over.


    • Fire Critic

      I thought that a lot of the problems (not all) that Rubin had to deal with were there before he got there.

      I admit I am not well versed in the history of Chiefs in DC, but you guys have had some issues for a while. Some created by the Chiefs and others created by the Mayor and Council.

      As for the new Chief…I thought it was interesting how he was kept on the books in order to get a fatter pension while he worked elsewhere.

      It is like I have thought for a while…I don’t know why anyone would take the top job in DC…

      • dave statter

        Well maybe at least I can introduce you to this chief. But you never know with my rep.


        • Mike Ward

          You sure?


      • Anonymous

        Yeah, you thought…LOL

  • Anonymous

    Wow! That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone call Rubin a “hero”.

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  • DC resident, True Northwest

    From one scandel to another, looks like the new chief has started on the right path. What a disservice to the District and the men and women in the trenches.

    • Check yourself

      The “Scandel” or you mean “Scandal” is that you don’t have SPELL CHECK…WTF ??

  • Anonymous

    Its a Sad Day in both DCFD and PGFD. I thought the new Leaders would pick better choices.

  • 95%er


    Please read this blog from the editor of FIRE CHIEF magazine.

    Seems like nobody is a fan of Ellerbe except for DC resident.

    Pretty unusual for the editor of a major fire service magazine to comment on an appointment in this manner:

  • Loo for life

    Folks relax let’s see what kinda Fire Chief he can be… Guess what he is the new Fire Chief regardless of what any of us write, compliment or complain about!!!

    We have had problems with every Chief as long as I have been on the job… Kenny including in his interim staus but let us see if we can make it work!!

    • Many Chiefs

      Loo your right many Chiefs, but men & women keep the Dept running.

  • Anonymous

    “Stuart says
    @ DC_Resident, Wait… Are you saying that the man who was working for Sarasota while still collecting time toward his retirement in DC is “honest to a fault”? If he was “honest to a fault” then he would have retired outright and moved on to Sarasota. However, instead he got a special deal that he only gave up when he was busted in the news and the city retracted the arrangement”.

    The city retracted when “they” were busted in the news. Rubin and his gang negotiated the deal (which was legal by the way) then claimed that they had no knowledge of it when in fact a document was produced with the AFC-P/P signature on it.

    Perhaps if Rubin spent more time in D.C. he would have some knowledge of what’s going on in his department……remember the fire truck/ambulance donation he claimed to have know knowledge of?

  • Anonymous

    Guys just say it, it’s Black & White. This guy has not even started yet. Sorry your Rube is gone. But what has Ellerbe done, nothing, & a ton of negativity already.

    It’s plain as “Black & White”

  • DC Firefighter

    Well we’ll see if this, my second attempt at posting a comment on here gets posted. First of all this is essentially more of the same for the DC Fire Department. He was here before and many who were here for that experience know what to expect, and to the rest of you, if you don’t want to believe what others have told you about his time and tenure with our Department well guess what, your gonna get to experience it first hand for yourself.

    To DC Resident, I too am a DC Resident, and guess what this guy is not honest. If you like him, fine say you like him and are gonna support him. There is no problem with that, but don’t place him up on some sort of pedestal that he doesn’t deserve to be on. You are only doing a disservice to people who are honest and have a good moral character. Ellerbe is not one of those people.

    If the retirement scandal that he played a direct role in are not enough to question this man’s integrity, simply look at the fact that while residing in Sarasota FL and fulfilling the full-time position of Fire Chief there, he was claiming full time residency in the District of Columbia on his taxes in order to obtain a tax exempt status as a resident property owner. While he may be a property owner he clearly was not a resident of the District of Columbia. His response to this impropriety was to claim ignorance, and state that someone else does his taxes. Please, ignorance is not an excuse, if it is then guess what boys we’ll be able to get away with murder under his tenure. Anyone who gets in trouble while he is our Chief simply say you didn’t know any better. Sure that’s a suitable defense of one’s actions. Do these actions speak of a man who is above reproach for honesty and integrity? I do not believe they do.

    As a DC resident and a DC Firefighter I did not support Rubin, his administration or the way that he ran this Fire Department. I believe that Rubin, and his subordinate chiefs were more wrong than they were right during their tenure here. I can tell you that I believe that we are in for much of the same with Ellerbe.

    Also for those of you who are gonna compare this to the Bush/Obama transition, the country’s subsequent problems, and try and preempt some sort of excuse as to why Ellerbe will be unable to fix the shambles that is the DC Fire Department please save you breath, that argument doesn’t hold water either.

    Good luck to us all, believe me we are gonna need it.

  • Anonymous

    Ellerbe completely followed the law and the DPM when he went to Sarasota.

  • Anonymous

    Most of the commentary is unfamiliar with the reality of the last DC Mayoral Administrations. The path for Ellerbe was paved by the only transendentally effective leadership of the Dennis Rubin and Adrian Thompson. Both chief made poor choices in their picks for Assistant Chiefs and anybody that thinks Ellerbe is a step backward is kidding themself.

    Is he the best choice for the job? I read the blog by Janet Wilmoth and find how easily she is spun by her network and only limited knowledge of what makes a “good” fire chief (she is neither a firefighter nor paramedic, let alone a fire chief. How is it she is an editor? Are you kidding?). It is true that heavy lifting was done in making EMS less error prone, but significant divisions remain and another four more years of Rubin would not have changed this. The article claiming great strides in EMS was written by an AFC who is also manipulator of data and propeganda, as was previous Fire Chief. Does anybody know that “Lemons to Lemonade” was about propeganda? Let’s not turn the attention from Ellerbe though.

    He is being shelled from every direction. If anyone knew the true story of “drawing a salary from DC while in Sarasota” I think they would be suprised. It was in accordance with the DPM and vetted and signed by everyone. This is an option given to all District employees, so a lot of people made it as corruption. False and a lot more to it. I don’t know where we will be in another month, let alone the next year. He deserves a shot, IMO.

    • dave statter

      For the repord: The reporting last year, and quoted and linked to this morning, points out who signed off on the arrangement for Chief Ellerbe to take leave without pay while on duty as the fire chief in Sarasota County.


  • DC Firefighter

    Why is the reflex always race? “It’s NOT as plain as Black and White”. What do you call the white guys on the job that didn’t like Rubin? What kind of racists are they? Are all of the black guys on the job that didn’t like Rubin racists as well? The answer to that is obviously no, they were men who didn’t like another man based on good moral character or the other man’s lack thereof,plain and simple.

    It should be about the man, not what race he is. Racism is nasty and wrong and has no place in our society much less on this job where we are required to put our faith sometimes blindly in the man next to us on a fire. It should not be used as a ‘go to’ crutch or excuse for everything that doesn’t go a certain way or because two people just do not get along because they have differing personalities.

    Maybe just maybe these same Men that do not want Ellerbe as Fire Chief also didn’t like Rubin. What do you call those Men? Maybe they just wanted a good chance with someone new at fixing the problems that plague the Department, and they see this as more of the same past that created the issues we face today, perpetuated by bad leadership.

  • Anonymous

    What do you expect from a city that elected Mayor Marion Berry to city council after watching him smoke crack on television!

  • Just My 2 Cents

    Are we talking about Kenneth Ellerbe or Kaiser Soze? I too have heard the horror stories, the whispers in “private circles”, the rumors about the things he is “alleged” to have done, but none of that seems to be founded. When you ask someone about specifics, it’s usually one side of the story or hearsay or nothing different from “stories” you hear about other Chiefs. What I know to be true is Chief Ellerbe was born and raised in this great city in which we serve, came up through the ranks, has been in virtually every division on this job (which is something most are not willing to do), is educated to a level higher than most will ever achieve and is above all, human. Can we honestly ask for a “perfect” Fire Chief when we ourselves are not perfect? Of the so-called concerns that have surfaced, do you honestly believe that a man so attention-to-detail oriented, would jeopardize his name, pension and potential positions (both present and future) without legitimate explanation? I strongly doubt it. But as is typical with this department, we tend to pick and choose what we want to believe, who we want to trust, what information we want to divulge and so forth. Sadly, it’s usually based on all the wrong reasons and this is proving to be no exception. Best of luck, Chief.


    Well said DC Firefighter……and your correct Dave, Brian Lee and Brender Gregory signed off on Chief Ellerbe’s paperwork…If it was right wrong or indifferent, don’t attack Chief Ellerbe, go after Brian Lee and Brender Gregory….They’ve certainly not followed the DPM on many things.

  • Anonymous

    Now come one people say it with me…. 5 pay cuts, 4 closed fire stations, 3 closed engine companies, 2 years no promotions and a big fat layoff. Merry christmas DC, oh yea happy new year

  • DC_resident

    OK…I was trying to let you off easy. He had a right to claim homested…Question 1, when are your taxes due?? He left in July of last year!! Taxes have to be in by April 15…duh (SMH) so what did he do wrong??

    Secondly,according to my friends in the DCFD and MPD, there has been on the books since the 1960’s a 1 year LWOP clause, that allows members to take a year off without pay, and come back or retire without penalty. Ellerbe could not make that up all by himself..the sign off has to come from the agency head according to the DPM…so what law did he break. Just like Rubin knew nothing about the Fire Truck donation, until an email surfaced from him OK’ing the donation (SMH)… So you negative posters tell me what has he done to YOU…stop spreading the hate..It sounds like it is a race issue…I know my old neighbor and I will bet 100.00 that had you not seen the picture had no clue who he is.

    All people trying to do something positive has some haters…haters drive us to success…So hate on..I sleep well and I know my old neighbor will too…So stay up and hate all night…(SMH)..

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know what he thinks about the PEC’s? He could earn quite a bit of respect from the men if he made them first on the chopping block, second only to eliminating the EMS Captain position! EMS should be ensure that the patient has proper ABC’s and get them to the hospital fast!!!

  • optimist

    Why don’t we see what his vision for the agency is before we make up our own stories about what is or is not going to happen. I’m sure he submitted a detailed plan of actions to the mayor-elect, right? You might be surprised what he thinks about PECs or EMS Captains. And what is this, 1960? Just check ABCs get them to the hospital fast? What, so they can sit in the hallway dying instead of on the street? Mr Gray has publicly stated he is going to complete the mission & intent of the EMS task force, which may actually result in you doing more of the treatment and transport than you do today! How would you like it if they start closing companies to staff high-demand ambulances like Baltimore?

  • Anonymous

    Hope local 36 is pleased ! This guy is ALL about race ! Add to that he was never Known as a “firefighter”.As interm chief he was all for 4 man trucks,no aide, long as he got the position.Sorry folks,your done !

    • Kenneth Ellerbe

      Anonymous, you do realize that I was a Sgt and Lieutenant at E-30 for approximately four years, don’t you? While you may not have ever known me as a fire fighter, my crew sure did. I’d suggest that you speak to those members who were assigned to E-30 while I was there before you make such a claim.
      Take care,
      Kenneth B. Ellerbe

  • It’sOff

    He would gain a whole lot of respect by eliminating the disastrous and wasteful PEC program, placing EMS captains and the paramedics back on the transport unit where they belong and can do the most good. The EMS task force and everyone on it is a joke. We have let this become the Rosenbaum Fire and EMS Dept, when in reality Howard University Hospital should have suffered the wrath of the family. Cut the pecs, put the medics and ems captains on the transport units, and focus on getting the job done without bowing down to the misguided efforts of the EMS committee. This will save money on costly firetruck maintenance, repairs, and fuel. It will also reduce our liability with ems related lawsuits. Use the savings to fund pay raises and replace all the fire apparatus that have taken a beating by running all over town providing medical attention where a medic unit should have already been.


    Tell em DC Resident….I agree with you 100%……

  • The Fae

    Hookman you have been gone a long time. Do you think you will get your job back?

  • http://SCFDFF SCFDFF

    From what I have observed in Sarasota…being I am here, Chief Ellerbe was up front about his interest in Politics and he stated he did not know how long he would be here. I heard those words come out of his mouth in front of a group of 40 or more firefighters. Ellerbe cutting back to 2 man engines without OT is what every Chief in the nation has had to do. You can’t blame him for poor economics. This department is afraid of a man educated and black. I had several occasions to speak with him about different issues and he was open to opinions. Maybe those of you, whom didn’t get that privilege, didn’t deserve it. There isn’t one Chief in Sarasota or any other department that would pass up that opportunity in DC. Remember, firefighters complain about who ate their grape jelly, so they will surely complain about you too. Good luck to you Chief.

  • Anonymous

    You all talk about PEC’s being bad ideas. Look what happened with the new dispatching and the Trucks in the City. They don’t go on hardly any runs anymore. PEC’s are still going all day and night. Quit whining and either get promoted or quit. Put a medic on every piece and I can garauntee that piece will not shut down. But you are probavly some “firefighting 4th Battalion” douchbags that are hanging on to the coat tails of the guys that were actually doing it in the early to mid 90’s.

  • xray


    Let me sat this by whos standered are you ranking the new chief whether he is a firefighter or not.Thats the problem with this department we throw around who is a fireman and who not like its skittles.And whos to say whats law whrn it comes to labeling someone.Hmm lets visit this issue.what defines a real fireman.
    1.First you must like what you do.
    2.Second you should be people oriented and care about th
    e community you serve.
    3. Must be efficient in your craft to carry out the
    mission,this includes all aspects of the job
    including riding the ambulance with out crying

    4.Dedication to the service and not indulge in corrupt
    activities that is detrimental to good order and

    Now I think theres quite a few on this job who dont meet there basic requirements.what makes a firemen is not walking around talking about that was a good fire,thats someone who just lost nearly everthing whats good about that.What makes a good fireman is not coming to work at 0430hrs,you live 2hrs away you have to leave early duh?.Trying to leave a medical call without following through because a first due box comes out doesnt make you aggressive it shows lack of dedication to the community.This is what I think in conjunction with some other elements makes a good fireman.Do you measure up?

  • me


    It appears that a basic grasp of spelling and punctuation above a third grade level is not one of your criteria. How do you reconcile that with the fourth point of your definition of a good fireman?

    It is interesting to note that you do not specifically mention the desire to put out fire as being one of the criteria for being a good fireman. I do not actively wish for a person to lose their house in a fire. Even if I did, have you ever heard of “a wish” as the cause of a fire? I thought not.

    I only wish that, if a person is going to have their house catch on fire, it happens in my first due on a day I am working. Why? Because I like my job,I care enough about the community to go into harm’s way to keep them from losing any more property, I’m not only efficient, I’m proficient at my job, and I’m dedicated to putting their house that is on fire out in a corrupt-free manner.

    I also live an hour away, I get there at 0400, study my area so I can help the community out faster, talk about “good” fires, and realize that part of our job is emergency medical care.

    Yes, I guess I measure up.

  • don’t worry about it

    Ladies and Gentleman,

    You can thank former D.C. Mayor and current City Councilman Marion Barry for making “xray” a part of our department via the cadet program. A round of applause for the cadet program!

    By the way, if you clear a medical local for a first due box without following the proper protocol and actually doing your job, you will get called out on it.

  • Jon Belt

    I am happy for you and your new position. Politics are rough. I know you will succeed as the DC chief and stay strong.