The Daily Iowan

Iowa City fire chief retires after 35 years


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Andy Rocca is a lifelong resident of Iowa City.

And for the past 35 years, he has served the area to which he is so attached.

“It’s just been a phenomenal career; I mean, I look back with very fond memories as an entry-level firefighter, as a company officer responding to emergency calls and performing those duties, training with the crews,” Rocca said. “I am a lifelong resident and native of Iowa City, and so it’s really been special to me to be able to give back to my community.”

Rocca, the fire chief of the Iowa City Fire Department, will retire from his position on May 13.

He began his career as an entry-level firefighter in July 1978. From there, he was promoted to lieutenant in 1987 and then moved his way to his current position in 1996.

Working in a fire department for that long is rare, said Roger Jensen, the Iowa City deputy fire chief.

“With the fact that the job really kind of is a young man’s job, to work that long is pretty much unheard of,” said Jensen, who has worked with Rocca since 1987.

But Jensen said that reveals a lot about Rocca’s work ethic and how much he cares for the community and the department.

“I’ve never met someone who has been a better listener than Chief Rocca,” Jensen said. “When you go into his office and sit down, you have his undivided attention; it’s almost creepy, but he’s clearly tuned into the person that is in there talking to him, and I think that’s just markings of a very good leader.”

Other city law enforcement officials also touted Rocca’s work.

“He had nothing but concern for the safety of everybody he served in this city,” said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the University of Iowa police.

Green said he worked with Rocca when he was the director of security and fire safety at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

He added that he had the “privilege and honor” of providing Rocca a letter of recommendation when he was up for the job as the Iowa City fire marshal in the early 1990s.

“He is very competent,” Green said. “He really knew his craft well.”

Rocca said he is proud of the accomplishments of the Fire Department during the past few decades.

The department was awarded Accredited Agency Status by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International in 2008, and the department was able to build a new fire station in 2011, despite economic hardships.

“A lot of good things have occurred under his watch,” Jensen said.

But Rocca does not take all of the credit for these accomplishments.

“Certainly I am very proud of this organization, the city of Iowa City,” he said. “And as I said in my letter of resignation, ‘For my support, as well as for the experience of a lifetime,’ because it’s been incredible, much more than I could have ever imagined.”

Rocca said he plans on fishing, hunting, and spending time with his family after he retires, but he will look back fondly on his time at the department.

“Sometimes, you are stuck working in the office, and at other times, you just never know, and I think that’s what kept me so motivated and interested in the Fire Department is just no day was really ever the same,” Rocca said. “There is always a variety, and I like that.”

DI reporter Kelsey Cunniff contributed to this story.