Asst. Fire Chief Javier Mainar has been nominated to replace San Diego’s retiring fire chief, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced Tuesday afternoon.

If approved by the City Council, Mainar will replace outgoing Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, whose last day of work will be Friday. Sanders said Mainar’s decades of experience as a San Diego firefighter pushed him ahead of the job’s competition.

“Quite simply, I can’t imagine a better person taking charge at this critical moment,” Sanders said.

The nomination comes at a time when the city faces an estimated $179 million budget deficit and other budget concerns. Sanders expressed confidence in Mainar’s ability to make tough budget decisions.

“Javier’s been running the department on a day-to-day basis, which is what the assistant chief of a fire department or a police department does. And he’s been making budget decisions and been running the budget for the department, so I think he has an excellent handle on it,” Sanders said.

Mainar called the budget deficit a “startling number” but a problem that he’s qualified to help tackle. He said department will be examining how to cut its budget but would not specify which areas would be targeted. The city’s fire and police departments account for more than half of the city’s budget and much of its personnel costs.

“It’s only reasonable to expect that we’re going to assist filling the gap,” Mainar said. “It was pretty easy for me to figure out that we were going to make those decisions.”

Forty people from across the country applied for the opening and the pool was narrowed to five candidates, Sanders said. The department hoped to have a new fire chief by the beginning of October but missed that goal due to scheduling problems.

The San Diego firefighters union released a statement of congratulations for Mainar that assumes that his nomination will be approved. Sanders also expressed little doubt.

From the union’s statement:

We would like to congratulate Chief Mainar on his new position, and thank him for stepping up to lead the San Diego Fire Department in these difficult times. As the city seeks further cuts to an already understaffed department, it’s important to have a leader with a broad range of experience and who understands the needs of firefighters and the communities they serve.

— KEEGAN KYLE

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