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David Witt has been appointed chief of the Kern County Fire Department.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors have appointed Interim Fire Chief David Witt as the county’s next fire chief.

Witt had served as the interim chief since January. Prior to his appointment, he had served for nearly 20 years in the fire department.

“It’s exciting. There are so many challenges that we have ahead of us, but I’m confident that with the staff that I have and all the people we work with that we will get there,” Witt said after the appointment.

He said safety for the public and safety for the employees, along with getting the department to a stable fiscal condition were his two top priorities.

“Really, it's a matter of finding out where we can cut and where we can stay strong, and we’ll get there,” he said.

Witt replaces former Chief Brian Marshall, who left the department in December to accept an appointment in the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Witt inherits a department with an estimated $8.8 million structural deficit and a union that has come to an impasse in contract negotiation with county officials.

Negotiations between the county and the firefighters union have dragged on for around two years without both sides coming to an agreement. An outside mediator has been called in to try to come up with a contract both county firefighters and the supervisors can accept.

However, union President Dave Nelson had high praise for the new chief.

“He’s a man of honor,” he said. “He has a good vision for what the department is, where the department needs to be. And just in our conversations, he has a good plan moving forward to progress the department into the future.”