SEMINOLE – After leading Seminole Fire Rescue for the last three years and 31 years of total service to the city, Fire Chief George Bessler is stepping down.
Bessler informed City Manager Frank Edmunds of his retirement, which goes into effect on Aug. 30, by email on Aug. 1. Terry Tokarz, currently the assistant fire chief, will take over as interim fire chief while Edmunds conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.
In his email to Edmunds, Bessler wrote: “It has been my pleasure to serve the City of Seminole and the greater Seminole community for over 31 years. I have truly enjoyed and have found it very rewarding to work with dedicated emergency response personnel that sincerely care about the wellbeing of each other and our community. I have also been fortunate to work for a City Manager that genuinely cares about the welfare of our employees and of the community.”
Bessler, 53, will join the East Lake Fire Rescue Department as assistant fire chief of training/EMS. He served as training chief with Seminole Fire Rescue for seven years and said he “dearly loved doing that work, providing training for firefighters.” While he said serving as fire chief has been “extremely rewarding,” he wants to finish up his career in public service in a position he loves.
“I enjoyed that aspect of the position, but I’m young enough and healthy enough to go back and do what I love doing,” he said.
He plans to permanently retire when he’s 60.
“George has served the greater Seminole area very well during his successful career and has demonstrated true leadership skills during his tenure as Chief of the department,” Edmunds said.
Bessler, who lives in Seminole, is president of the Rotary Club of Seminole Lake and is involved with the local Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America.
Tokarz, who has 25 years with Seminole Fire Rescue, said he’s interested in applying for the fire chief position permanently.
“My belief is that most people start jobs with expectation of advancing throughout the rank,” he said. “You don’t start in fire service immediately as fire chief; you work your way up. And I’ve done that here.”
He added, “I’m excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the number one challenge of being interim fire chief and ultimately applying for the job and seeing what happens. It would be the final exclamation point on a fabulous career here.”