July 16, 2021
Assistant Chiefs White, McNeil Retiring from VCFD After More Than Three Decades of Service

CAMARILLO, Calif. – The Ventura County Fire Department commemorated a historic transition within its leadership Thursday, July 15, with the announced retirements of two assistant chiefs, including the first woman to achieve that rank, and promotions to succeed them.

Assistant Chiefs Kelly White and John McNeil are retiring from the department after more than 30 years of service each. White is the highest-ranking woman since the department was created in 1928. John Spykerman and Scott Quirarte were promoted to fill the assistant chief ranks as McNeil and White depart.

“Ventura County has been well-served by these two dedicated professionals,” Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. “Their humble leadership has been a steady influence on the department as we have expanded our firefighting capabilities, adjusted to changes in wildfire behavior, weathered the impacts of a global pandemic and adapted to meet the needs of a growing, diverse community. We are all better off because of their service and I wish them well in whatever comes next.”

“These are big roles to fill,” Lorenzen said. “We are fortunate to have two veteran firefighters who have grown with the department and have the experience and leadership skills necessary to keep us moving forward as they step into their new positions.”
White, who lives in Camarillo, oversees the department’s Administrative Services Bureau.

She joined the department in 1989 as a firefighter and advanced through the ranks as a captain and a battalion chief, before being promoted to assistant chief in 2019 with leadership responsibilities for human resources, recruitment, risk and safety, emergency medical services, training and the fire chaplains program. In her earlier roles, White oversaw the Emergency Medical Services Division, the Special Operations Battalion and the Fire and EMS Regional Communications Center. She previously worked as a firefighter with the Pasadena Fire Department and in emergency medical services as a paramedic. Her last day on the job is expected to be sometime in mid-August.

White said her greatest satisfaction has come from helping people at the fire department be successful and overcome the challenges that come with the job, supporting programs like cancer prevention education and peer support.

“I don’t look at things as about me. I’m an advocate behind our people,” White said. “Sometimes that required me to be behind the lines. For the last three years, it’s been at the front.” 
McNeil, who lives in Ojai, started with the department as a member of a seasonal wildland crew before graduating from the fire academy in 1988 and advancing through the ranks. He became a battalion chief in 2013 and a division chief in 2017 before his promotion to assistant chief in charge of the Emergency Services and Operations Bureau in 2019. In that role, McNeil has been responsible for oversight of fire stations and the fire dispatch center. He has extensive experience in urban search and rescue, wildland firefighting and human resources. His last day at headquarters will be July 25.

“When you pursue this career, most people get experience from other agencies. I got all my experience from this agency. That’s what I’m most proud of,” McNeil said. “I’d have taken a job somewhere else, but I always wanted to work with this department.”

Chief Lorenzen presented Spykerman and Quirarte with their assistant chief badges in a ceremony at fire department headquarters.

With the departures and new promotions, some duties among the department’s three assistant chiefs are being reassigned.

Assistant Chief Chad Cook will now oversee Emergency Services and Operations. Spykerman will succeed Cook in running the Support Services Bureau, which includes responsibilities for supplying the department, maintaining equipment and vehicles and IT services. Quirarte will succeed White in running the Administrative Services Bureau.

Spykerman has served as a division chief since 2018, with responsibility for Division 13, serving southeast Ventura County, including Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley. He joined the department after graduating from the fire academy in 1989 and was the department’s employee of the year in 2006.

“I always look at it as a whole team thing,” Spykerman said. “I still get to work with great people and I’m coming into a great place, just looking to see what I can add.”

Quirarte graduated from the fire academy in 1988. As he rose through the ranks, Quirarte served as a fire investigator specialist and was the captain of Engine Company 50 – B Shift when it won the department’s company of the year award in 2012.

“A significant portion of my career has involved training others to be safe and successful in the fire service,” Quirarte said. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to continue that focus as part of my new role.”
Chief Spykerman and Fire Chief Lorenzen
Chief Quirarte and Fire Chief Lorenzen