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New Fire Chief & Top Transportation Official Have Strong Ties to Palo Alto

New Fire Chief & Top Transportation Official Have Strong Ties to Palo Alto

Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada announced that an in-house candidate and a returning manager have been selected to become the City’s next Fire Chief and Chief Transportation Official, respectively. Interim Fire Chief, Geo Blackshire, and former Transportation Planning Manager, Philip Kamhi, were each selected following national recruitment processes.

“We are extremely proud to announce the selection of two extraordinary public stewards in Blackshire and Kamhi,” said Shikada. “Each of these individuals has devoted their career to public service, and Palo Alto will be well served by their professional leadership.”

Blackshire has not only been leading the City’s Fire Department as Interim Chief since January, but his 21-year career in fire service started here in Palo Alto in 1997. Through the years he worked his way up through the ranks from firefighter to Fire Engineer, Fire Captain, Battalion Chief and Deputy Chief of Operations and Support Services. He will become Palo Alto’s first African-American Fire Chief. As Fire Chief, Blackshire will continue leading the department of 104 personnel and a $32 million budget.

“The Palo Alto Fire Department is a world-class fire department verified by national accreditation and confirmed by the community’s acknowledgement of the excellent customer service provided by the firefighters,” Blackshire said. “My goal is to continue this tradition by being a collaborative partner with City leadership and the community.”  

Chief Blackshire has led numerous initiatives to ensure excellent fire protection and emergency response while addressing fiscal and other resource management priorities. His accomplishments include developing multiple emergency response deployment models, implementing new succession processes, managing the 2019-2023 Palo Alto Fire Department (PAFD) Strategic Plan, serving as the department lead for the Hazmat Division of Super Bowl 50, and serving as the department lead for the Embarcadero Fire Station reconstruction. He has demonstrated a particular commitment to workforce safety and wellness, diversity and inclusion, service and responsibility. As a department director, Blackshire’s appointment as Fire Chief will be submitted for City Council confirmation on August 5.

Philip Kamhi brings more than a decade of professional transportation experience covering the full range of issues involving local, regional, and federal agencies and multimodal transportation. He is currently managing legacy fleet decommissioning for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Prior to BART, Kamhi served Palo Alto as the second-in-command for the City’s transportation division, responsible for leading the City’s parking and Transportation Demand Management programs including coordination with the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association. Through his service to Palo Alto, Kamhi developed a strong reputation for positive community engagement and program development.

Kamhi has dedicated his career to transportation management and public transit services here in the Bay Area and in Southern California. He has managed programs for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Riverside Transit Agency in Southern California. Locally, he has served in Solano County and the City of Fairfield.

“I'm honored to take on this leadership role and to return to Palo Alto with an excellent team of staff that is dedicated to improving transportation,” Kamhi said. “The Palo Alto community appreciates the impact transportation decisions have on the quality of their lives and I look forward to working with them and the Palo Alto City Council to achieve solutions to bring positive change.”

Kamhi will provide management and leadership for a workgroup that was formally designated an office through the City Council’s budget adoption in June 2019. Transportation previously fell under the Department of Planning and Community Environment. The Office of Transportation has a team of 15 employees and an operating budget of $2.3 million and $16.8 million capital budget dedicated to efficiently addressing the mobility needs of the Palo Alto community. Among the major projects Kamhi will lead are the City’s planning for railroad grade separations, residential permit and other parking program changes, bicycle and pedestrian plan review and implementation, and staff development. He returns to the City of Palo Alto in his new position effective August 19.

Last Updated: July 18, 2019