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Weber stuns staff with sudden retirement
Thirty-two years of working to keep Ceres a safer place came to an abrupt end last week when Brian Weber stepped into retirement.

Deputy Fire Chief Weber, 55, had been talking about retirement for months but startled his department when he called a staff meeting on Tuesday, March 30 to announce he would be gone at the end of that day.

"They weren't overly surprised about that because they knew it was coming," said Weber of his staff meeting. "The surprise was as for when. I told them 'as of today I'll be gone.'"

A collision of several factors hastened Weber's retirement. The retirement was also ushered by a Weber's desire to pre-empt a 2 1/2 percent cut in COLA in Weber's retirement.

Because money is tight and the city is asking employees to take a 10 percent reduction in salaries, Weber saw his departure as a way for the city to save money.

The city doesn't plan to hire Weber's replacement. Instead Weber's position will be filled by Fire Marshall Bryan Nicholes as Acting Deputy Fire Chief.

"At this time, there are no plans to back-fill the fire marshal position," said Art deWerk, director of Public Safety Department for the city of Ceres. He noted that Nicholes will retain his fire marshal responsibilities, but "may need to delegate some of the duties to others in the organization as he deems necessary."

DeWerk said by not backfilling Weber's position, the financially-strapped city will be saving the city's general fund over $200,000 annually in salary and related expenses.

"We can't do it indefinitely but we have to operate within the financial constraints," said deWerk. "It's a tremendous workload but at a certain point that will not hold up."

Ceres is different from most cities in that police and fire suppression services are operated within a single department. DeWerk said that the deputy fire chief position in Ceres is a hybrid of an actual fire chief and division commander.

Nicholes will oversee the overall day-to-day operational duties as well as respond to incidents.

Weber said it feels strange to be retired.

"There's some difficulty. When you think about it, you've been doing this for 32 years and now all of a sudden, cold turkey, you're gone," said Weber.

He said he's confident about the competency of the whole department and looks forward to doing new things. For now he wants to concentrate on taking care of his ailing father, John Weber, 91, of Ceres.

"My ultimate goal and desire is to move to Alaska and hopefully die in Alaska and not in Ceres, California," said Weber, "but it's not part of the plan right now because of my need to be with my Dad and enjoy as much as I can with him and help him."

Retirement will also give him more free time to fly both airplane and rotorcraft, engage in video and still photography, and travel to Alaska and Australia. Weber possess dual citizenship in America and Australia where his late mother was born and raised.

Weber is credited with implementing the First Responder program in Ceres, and guiding the evolution and development of the Fire Department from a volunteer to full-time professional fire department. He also assisted in the development of one of the first municipal internet web presences in the area, and managing the city's first computer network and information technology system.

A lifelong Ceres resident, Weber earned an associate degree at Modesto Junior College before he was hired by Chief Leroy Cunningham in 1976 as a reserve police officer. Because there were no sworn officer openings available at the time Weber worked for a few months as a campus policeman at California State Stanislaus, Turlock. In 1977 Weber was recruited back to Ceres and accepted full-time employment as a police officer in January, 1978.

Over the next decade he rose through Ceres Police ranks, including field training officer, reserve and Explorer coordinator, detective, detective sergeant, patrol and administrative sergeant.

Several incidents stand out in his memory. Patrolman Weber was first on scene of the strange case of an April 1979 homicide where the victim driving on Highway 99 was killed by a bomb planted in his car. The man was apparently targeted because he was unwilling to "sell" his adopted son back to his biological father. The case was never charged. "We never had any good closure on that case," added Weber.

Weber said that he handled so many incidences that he's often surprised by people who come up to him and ask, "Do you remember arresting me?"

In 1987 Weber was asked to assume the duties and responsibilities of Fire Chief for an interim period while the city recruited a new fire chief. When the city decided to reorganize the organization into a modified Public Safety Department and combine police and fire departments under one leader, Weber served as commander of both divisions over a 20-year period.

"I really did enjoy the Fire (Division) because people like firemen and not so much policemen."

He found investigations into homicides, child abuse cases and robberies the most satisfying police role. His mentors include Lt. Henry Trantham, detective Gene Fowler, and Chief Pete Peterson.

Weber eventually earned a bachelor's degree in 1996 from the Union Institute in Sacramento.

Weber helped put out mountain and wildland fires as part of strike teams. He once helped rescue the pilot of a helicopter that crashed while fighting a Shasta County fire.

Weber is a member of St. Jude's Catholic Church in Ceres and said a priority of his retirement will be serving God and his fellow man.