UPDATED: A man for others
Former Pasadena Fire Department Captain John Tennant remembered for his work for firefighters on the frontlines
By André Coleman 01/16/2014
Former state Fire Marshal John Tennant, past president of the Pasadena Firefighters Association Local 809 and a former vice president of the California Professional Firefighters (CPF) Second District, died on Dec. 13 after battling esophageal cancer. He was 65.
Tennant, who was a captain, joined the local Fire Department in 1972. He was elected president of Local 809 in 1985, staying in that post for 14 years. In 1994, he was elected as CPF Second District vice president.
“He was a highly professional firefighter who also offered leadership on issues such as fire and police retirement system which proved highly valuable,” said Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Tennant was very influential among sitting council members, many of whom his firefighters campaigned for during his time as union president. In the 1990s, before the elected mayor became the council’s eighth member, Tennant was considered by some observers to be the council’s unelected eighth member when it came to issues regarding public safety and the fire and police pension funds.
“He will be remembered both for the length of his service on these issues and the wisdom that he offered in addressing issues,” Bogaard said.
Plans for a local memorial service are still in the planning process.
“He pretty much defined the Pasadena firefighters,” said current Local 809 President Don Cervantes. “What I got from him is it is about making a strong department so we can provide better service to our community.”
Cervantes added that Tennant’s push for community involvement has made the local department stronger. “Going forward, I am going to teach everything that John taught me. It provides for a stronger community.”
Tennant was also considered an expert in ladder truck safety. He later served as special assistant to Sen. Cecil Greene and helped draft legislation to strengthen building codes in California. He was appointed to serve as state fire marshal in 2001 by former Gov. Gray Davis and earned a reputation for strict enforcement of the state’s fire safety building codes.
After the terrorist attacks on Washington DC and New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, Tennant helped secure $1 million in funding from the state’s Workforce Investment Act to finance the California Firefighters Joint Apprenticeship Committee’s Terrorism Consequence Management Training Program. The program was the nation’s first post-9/11 terrorism-response training to focus on the fire service.
“Throughout his career, John Tennant made a difference for our profession, whether it was as a firefighter, labor president or as state fire marshal,” said CPF President Lou Paulson in a statement. “Although he excelled at building bridges with management, there was never any question that his heart and his commitment always stood with the men and women on the frontlines.”
He is survived by his children Shawna, Lisa and Brian, and his brother, Mark Tennant.
A celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. on Feb. 5 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena.