‘Bad stuff’ over for retiring Everett emergency chief

EVERETT — His favorite part of the job was bringing people together.

Or, as one friend put it, being “personality and presence in the middle of bad stuff happening.”

After 25 years, Dave DeHaan is retiring from the city of Everett. He started as a firefighter here in 1990 and rose to become the city’s director of emergency management. He and his wife, Jennifer Rinaldi, have two grown children.

His retirement ceremony is set for 3:30 to 6 p.m. Jan. 6 in the Weyerhaeuser Room at Everett Station.

DeHaan, 55, grew up in Spanaway, the youngest son of a retired U.S. Air Force mechanic and a homemaker. His parents loved to camp and travel in a motor home.

“We spent a lot of our weekends over the years going to Mount Rainier and the ocean,” he said.

At 18, DeHaan was working as an autobody repairman, and he wanted something more.

His dad talked him out of becoming a military police officer or a jet mechanic. They settled on firefighter, and DeHaan joined the Air Force, serving four years near Spokane. For seven years after that, he worked as a civilian firefighter at the U.S. Navy base in Kitsap County.

In 1990, his cousin, Sharon DeHaan, was working for the city of Everett and suggested he apply.

In 2001, DeHaan advised then-Mayor Ed Hansen after the Nisqually earthquake and then the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They decided Everett needed to become better prepared for the unexpected. In 2004, the city left a county-wide emergency management program to form its own plan, specific for Everett.

“The focus changed,” DeHaan said.

Under his watch, nearly 800 people have completed the fire department’s Community Emergency Response Team training since 1999. Volunteers from that group help organize the city’s Fourth of July parade, when up to 20,000 people visit downtown Everett.

In the event of a disaster, those volunteers will be better prepared to help their families and neighbors, DeHaan said. He takes pride in the skills they’ve learned and the commitment they’ve shown.

“I really admire the sense of community we have here in Everett,” he said.

The challenge has been to keep people thinking about preparedness, he said. An earthquake is the No. 1 concern for this part of the country and yet it remains “an amorphous threat” compared to local flooding or winter weather.

This year, DeHaan helped the Everett School District with multiple training sessions related to safety, bringing energy and ideas, Assistant Superintendent Molly Ringo said.

“He is very enthusiastic and positive yet practical,” she said.

DeHaan is the chairman of the governor’s emergency management council and also served on the Snohomish County board of the American Red Cross.

Local Red Cross Director Chuck Morrison referred to DeHaan as “personality and presence.” DeHaan is known for being calm and rational, thoughtful and well-connected, Morrison said. He doesn’t take over the conversation, and he listens.

“There never seems to be a situation where he has too much to say,” Morrison said. “If he says something, you better listen.”

DeHaan helped Everett develop better relationships with local, state and federal agencies, Fire Chief Murray Gordon said. He worked with honesty, not ego.

“I don’t believe I ever saw Dave burn a bridge,” Gordon said. “There are strong opinions and strong people in emergency management who he was able to find common ground with and work with.”

That friendliness — as well as being a gentleman — is what helped DeHaan get across his message, which was the importance of resilience for the region, said Barb Graff, the director of emergency management for Seattle.

“Whether it was mundane business or a crisis situation, he was the kind of person you always wanted to have around,” she said.

People trusted DeHaan because of his strong sense of right and wrong, Graff said.

“He always found the most complimentary thing to say about a person and kept anything else to himself,” she said. “He cuts through what separates people and focuses in on what brought us together.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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