On her Facebook page, Kerri Donis often posts updates about the dream home she is building in Shell Beach.
So when Donis — the city of Fresno’s fire chief — publicly announced Monday that she is retiring next year, it should have come as no surprise. Shell Beach, after all, is known as a dream destination for retirees.
“This will be my last budget as I intend on retiring in March of ’23, as I’ve shared with the mayor and the city manager,” Donis told the Fresno City Council while presenting her department’s budget.
“I have been truly blessed for nine years to do this. It is kind of unheard of … the life span of a fire chief is like three to five years. And so I just want to thank you for your support for this department and understanding how much we needed it to be lifted up and for your support personally.”
With city support and the help of federal grants, Donis’ final budget will come in at $97 million. The department plans to hire 24 new firefighters (for a total of 367) and increase daily on-duty firefighters from 95 to 103.
Softball Led Donis to Fresno
Donis joined the Fresno Fire Department in 1996 and worked her way up the ladder. When then-chief Rob Brown resigned in 2014 after a domestic violence arrest, Donis made history by becoming the department’s first female chief.
She also participated in the city’s first-ever Pride Flag raising at City Hall last year.
A native of Moline, Illinois, Donis moved west to play college softball at Fresno State. Recruited by legendary coach Margie Wright in the late 1980s, Donis helped lead the Bulldogs to multiple NCAA Women’s College World Series appearances. In 2008, she was named a Top Dog Alumna by the Fresno State Alumni Association on behalf of the athletics department.
Through the years, she has often said that the life lessons she learned playing softball helped prepare to become fire chief.