ITHACA, N.Y.—Robert Covert, a 30 year veteran of the Ithaca Fire Department (IFD), has been enthusiastically promoted to the rank of Fire Chief at the department.

Covert has been serving as the department’s Acting Fire Chief since Tom Parson’s retirement from the department in August 2022, and proved to be the obvious choice when Ithaca’s Common Council unanimously voted to approve him for the position on Wednesday. 

Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis had waived the search process for a new chief, and moved to appoint Covert. Wednesday’s vote was closed out with applause. Covert called it a “privilege” to be made Fire Chief, but told The Ithaca Voice on Thursday that he didn’t envision becoming the department’s leader when he first joined.

“I never started off thinking my goal is to be the Fire Chief. My goal was to be a good firefighter,” Covert said.

However, others saw it coming from a mile away. Ed Olmstead, who was IFD’s Fire Chief when Covert first joined the department in 1992, called Covert after he was officially given the position. Covert said that Olmstead told him that he had always been able to picture Covert serving in the role.

It was “very humbling and very kind,” said Covert. 

“Folks around me have always been encouraging and always been good mentors and, whether I knew it would lead to this result myself, I guess wasn’t even sure until last night’s Common Council meeting,” Covert said on Thursday. 

Looking at the future, Covert said that the big goals for IFD are going to be the build out of the East Hill Fire Station, and continuing to train up what is a relatively young department. IFD is also readying to bring on more Firefighters. While the last application deadline has passed, Covert said that “Ithaca is certainly growing, and we need to make sure our organization is ready to serve the needs of the community.”

For anyone considering becoming a firefighter, Covert said, “I can’t think of a better job in the world.”

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn