SEDRO-WOOLLEY — The swearing in of a fire chief in the city of Sedro-Woolley isn’t an everyday occurrence. Before Monday, the last time it happened was in 1992.

Frank Wagner, a 26-year veteran of the Sedro-Woolley Fire Department, was sworn in as chief Monday by Mayor Julia Johnson, replacing Dean Klinger who officially retires May 21.

“It has just been a culture of family at the department that Dean has promoted,” said Wagner. “It was that foundation that made me want to stay here with my family.”

Inside the department’s engine bays filled with fellow firefighters, police officers, city officials and members of the public, Wagner took the oath and had his chief’s badge pinned to his uniform by his wife Rachel and daughters Emersen and Avery.

“As a 25-year-old punk kid, I never thought I would be in this position,” Wagner said.

“... I have the keys to a Ferrari, now it’s up to me not to wreck it.”

Like his predecessor, Wagner worked his way through the ranks of the department.

“I haven’t been here a single day without Klinger,” Wagner said. “So this will all be new to me.

“It’s a dream come true, that’s for sure. But it’s going to be different without him (Klinger).”

Johnson praised Klinger’s vision in preparing Wagner for the role.

“He knew what he wanted in his fire chief and in the individual,” Johnson said. “He handpicked Frank and Frank truly is the right man for the job.

“He (Wagner) is a great leader and also has the same calm demeanor as his predecessor. He is very professional and understands the culture of Sedro-Woolley. He is going to continue the city’s legacy of outstanding chiefs.”

Wagner became the full time assistant fire chief of operations and emergency medical services in 2017 after achieving the rank of captain in 2014 and lieutenant in 2000.

His firefighting career began in 1995, following two years at Skagit Valley College. He graduated from Sedro-Woolley High School in 1993.

When asked if being named chief was a goal from the beginning, Wagner said, “not a chance.”

“Years and years ago, I went to college to study criminal justice and wanted to get into the law enforcement side,” he said. “I got into retail management. Right out of high school, I went to work for Target for a summer job and become a manager. I worked there for almost 15 years. I stayed a volunteer and became a volunteer lieutenant.”

At the same time, he began working part time for Skagit County Medic One as an EMT. When that job was discontinued because of budget cuts, Wagner worked as a corrections officer at the Monroe Correctional Complex from 2012 to 2018.

Now he is the ranking member of the fire department.

“It’s all about team,” Wagner said. “That’s what I’ve learned. You take care of team, you take care of family and they take care of you.

“There are some big footsteps to fill, but I’m looking forward to the challenges. The path to success has been laid. We have the tools, the resources, and an amazing team here that works very well together and works very hard.”

— Reporter Vince Richardson: 360-416-2181,, Twitter:@goskagit,

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