Baltimore County’s first permanent female fire chief announced today that she is retiring, effective in July.

Chief Joanne Rund came to Baltimore County in 2019 after 32 years with the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, according to a county news release. She led the department through the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, has been involved in coordinating the response to the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. credited Rund with modernizing the workflow at the fire department

“Chief Rund broke barriers as Baltimore County’s first permanently appointed female fire chief, and her demonstrated leadership, commitment to the department, and tireless dedication to keeping our communities safe will have a lasting impact,” said Olszewski. “I wish Chief Rund well in her future endeavors and am thankful for her outstanding service to Baltimore County and its residents.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Before entering fire service in 1987, Rund was a volunteer emergency services provider in Carroll County. She is associate faculty at the University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, and Region III coordinator for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Advocacy programs.

In June, Rund survived a no-confidence vote from Baltimore County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Union Local 1311. Her colleagues, Assistant Chief Jennifer Utz and Deputy Chief Francis DiPaula, were not as fortunate; a wide majority said they had no confidence in either. Rund received support from 55% of members who voted.

Baltimore County Fire Department responding to a fatal fire in Catonsville. (Courtesy of WJZ)

Union members described a culture of bullying, harassment, micromanagement and lack of adherence to standard procedures. Fire Union President John Sibiga did not attribute those problems to Rund, but said she had challenges in confronting and changing the culture.

“I would say some of the issues predate Chief Rund. Everybody is generally optimistic of Chief Rund’s ability to lead the department,” Sibiga said. “They just wish she was allowed to and that she didn’t have anybody that was undermining her.”

Baltimore County will conduct a comprehensive search for Rund’s successor. Rund, meanwhile, thanked the county executive for the “privilege of a lifetime” to serve as the county’s chief.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“As I prepare to turn the page to a new chapter in my career, I am confident that, collectively, the Department will continue to realize its unlimited potential in the years ahead,” she said.

In a separate matter, Olszewski announced that Kimberly Routson will serve as acting director of government affairs, leading the office that sets legislative strategy and coordinates with other government partners. She succeeds Jennifer Aiosa, who is joining Gov. Wes Moore’s administration as the chief of staff of the Maryland Energy Administration.

Aiosa has been a longtime environmental and sustainability leader in the region. Of her new position, she said: “There is so much more to be done to reduce carbon pollution and expand clean energy to advance Maryland’s climate goals, and I look forward to the chance to roll up my sleeves and help get the job done,” she said.

Rona Kobell is a regional reporter at The Banner focused on Baltimore County.

More From The Banner