Retiring Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell handed over control of the state’s largest fire department to new Chief John Steinbeck on Thursday morning, a fitting exchange for two longtime friends who once served together as captains in the same station.
“You left nothing on the table,” Steinbeck told Cassell, 52, who has officially left the department where he spent over three decades. “You made everybody’s life here better. You made the county better, you made things across the nation better and you certainly made me better.”
County officials and family filled the commission chambers to watch the change of command ceremony, where Cassell gave a sentimental department bracelet to Steinbeck and Steinbeck’s wife, Lynette, pinned her husband’s new badge on his uniform.
Steinbeck, 48, who entered the department as a firefighter in 1990 and is the 11th chief in its history, traced his ascent back to a series of seemingly minor decisions, including joining a high school friend to test for the department on a whim. Steinbeck said he initially planned to become a Metropolitan Police Department police officer.
But that choice launched his career and now he is in position to oversee some 700 paid full-time employees and roughly 200 rural volunteer firefighters during a time of significant growth in the Las Vegas Valley. He pledged that the department would not stray from its mission statement to be a global leader with the safest community and resort destination in the world.
“We’re going to try to make this a better department than it is here today because that’s what we do,” he said. “And the person I hand it off to, I won’t hand it off if they don’t have that same commitment.”
Steinbeck said the department will be tenacious and prepared to handle major emergencies, whether it be an earthquake or a mass shooting, and must work with county and nonprofit partners to address issues ranging from the homelessness crisis to drug epidemics.
Steinbeck was most recently deputy chief, overseeing emergency management services. He has been with Southern Nevada’s FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team since 1993.
He was also the incident commander for the Family Assistance Center following the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, and he is a coordinator at the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, his biography shows.
Cassell lauded Steinbeck’s efforts, saying that the county’s work following the 1 October shooting is now a national model for resiliency and family assistance centers.
After nearly 34 years in the department, and five years as chief, Cassell said he is at ease with retirement, offering credit to leaders and people he worked alongside. But most importantly, he thanked his family, and Steinbeck did the same for his own.
“Everybody out there that’s counting on us moving forward has a family as well, and we keep that in mind every day,” Steinbeck said.