New Iowa City fire chief aims to form connections with Iowa City community

Scott Lyon, who will serve as Iowa City’s new fire chief, will focus on connecting with the community with his prior experience in growing towns.


Isabella Cervantes

Scott Lyon, the new firehouse chief, poses for a portrait in the Fire House Quarters in Iowa City, on Monday, April 4, 2022.

Ryan Hansen, News Reporter

Scott Lyon, who stepped into his new role as Iowa City’s fire chief on Sunday, is ready to use prior knowledge from working in growing towns to focus on community outreach efforts.

Lyon said he has lots of firefighting experience, as he spent eight years in several positions with the Urbandale Fire Department, including its fire chief.

He said he chose to apply for the Iowa City job because it is a very progressive, growing community with significant history.

“Iowa City stood out from any other organization I would want to work for,” Lyon said. “The diversity and inclusion in Iowa City is something that is very important to me and my family. It was an easy fit.”

Lyon said he wants to focus on diversity and inclusion during his time as his family has many direct connections to diverse populations. His daughter is the resettlement coordinator for refugees from Afghanistan, Lyon said, and in his free time, he works with the center, as well.

Lyon is replacing John Grier, who served as the city’s fire chief for the past 10 years and retired in February. The department opened two new fire stations and a training facility under Grier.

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The new fire chief has a bachelor’s degree in fire service administration and a master’s degree in organizational development and leadership from Waldorf College. He is also a certified paramedic in Iowa.

“Iowa City has a lot of attributes that I appreciated both professionally and personally,” he said.

As Iowa City fire chief, Lyon said he wants the Iowa City fire department to continue to be an “outward-facing agency,” heavily focused on transparency and a highly involved piece of the community.

He said life safety and risk reduction is the most important thing, departmentally, a fire department handles on a day-to-day basis.

“Any time that we can get up with community members [and] groups and prevent an emergency from occurring in the first place, that’s really the gold standard,” Lyon said. “Operationally, that’s definitely going to be a focus.”

Outreach efforts would manifest themselves in the form of open forums for the community to provide feedback on what issues are present within their communities, Lyon said, whether that would be University of Iowa communities or underserved Iowa City communities.

Lyon said his primary focus is to get acclimated with Iowa City first, and then he can look into potentially altering any of the pieces of the department’s operations.

“My goal and responsibility is to, first and foremost, learn,” Lyon said. “In anything we do, we need to be learners before anything else and seek to understand why things are the way they are.”

Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin, who led the search for the new fire chief, spoke in favor of approving Lyon to the position at a city council meeting on March 22.

“[Lyon] prioritizes those community relationships, not only because it’s a public service position, but also because he truly believes that it’s those relationships that can have a profound impact on the success of the fire department,” Fruin said in an address to the council.

He said Lyon also indicated he is someone who deeply cares for the people below him and this factored heavily into the decision.

“He wants to make sure that they have every opportunity they can to advance professionally,” Fruin said. “He [also] cares about their physical and their mental health and wants to make sure that they’re in the best position possible to service this community.”

Iowa City Deputy City Manager Redmond Jones II was among the selection committee that interviewed Lyon and the other candidates for the position. Out of the more than 15 candidates, Lyon stood out to him because of his authenticity, Jones said.

“One of the challenges for any candidate is to try and have everybody like you and try to find the right answers that satisfy everyone,” Jones said. “With Scott, I felt they were honest, straightforward answers… It wasn’t geared to placate.”

Jones said Lyon’s responses were backed by his experiences and those with growing communities like Urbandale were a big plus.

“We’re excited to get him here and he was very eager to get started,” Jones said.  “We’re really excited to have him on board.”