On Friday, June 11, both East Lansing Fire Chief Randy Talifarro and Parks and Recreation Director Tim McCaffrey retired after each providing two decades of service to the City, according to press releases from the City of East Lansing.
Talifarro served as the City of East Lansing’s fire chief beginning in March 2001, and for six years, beginning in 2012, he was chief of both ELFD and the Lansing Fire Department. He left Lansing’s department in 2019, unhappy with that City’s management of diversity and other issues. (Lansing Mayor Andy Schor subsequently apologized to him.)
When Talifarro joined East Lansing’s department in 2001, he came from working as assistant fire chief for the Flint Fire Department. During his time with Flint, Talifarro was awarded both “Firefighter of the Year” and a Medal of Merit in 1993, and several years later in 1998 he was designated a State of Michigan Professional Emergency Manager.
“Chief Talifarro has proudly served our community with professionalism, efficiency and diligence over the last 20 years,” said City Manager George Lahanas in a press release from the City that details the outgoing chief’s distinguished career.
“We are grateful for Chief Talifarro’s leadership in East Lansing, the knowledge and expertise that he brought with him to the role and for his continued support, particularly over the last year as he has led us through the emergency management of a public health crisis,” Lahanas added.
In 2018, Talifarro and then-Police Chief Larry Sparkes warned that emergency services in East Lansing were at a “tipping point” because of the City’s economic crisis. Voters subsequently passed an income tax to help preserve funding to police and fire services, with twenty percent of the net revenue designated for those departments. But ELi reported recently that the police department’s budget has actually continued declining, showing a drop in the last three fiscal years. In the same period, the fire department’s budget has increased slightly, thanks in part to short-term grants.
Talifarro has also been dedicated to service outside his professional work, having served on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan, the Society of Minority Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Michigan Infrastructure Coordinating Committee – Emergency Services Sector. He was also president of the Flint Community Schools Board of Education.
Following Talifarro’s retirement, ELFD Deputy Chief Dawn Carson will serve as interim fire chief until a permanent replacement is named.
McCaffrey, who also retired June 11, was hired as the City’s Parks and Recreation Director in May 1999. Prior to working for East Lansing, he worked as Parks & Rec director for the City of Northglenn, Colorado, for nine years in addition to holding supervisory roles in Parks & Rec departments elsewhere in Colorado and Nebraska.
A press release from the City details McCaffrey’s long career of public service. During his tenure here, he oversaw the opening of the Hannah Community Center, the expansion of the Northern Tier Trail, and the development of the Family Aquatic Center and the Soccer and Softball Complexes. He also played an important role in the installation of the Medal of Honor Memorial and Veterans’ Monument outside the Hannah Center.
More recently, McCaffrey led the City’s Parks & Rec system as it pursued funding from Ingham County Trails and Parks Millage funds and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for improvements to Bailey Park, Patriarche Park, and White Park and its surrounding trails. The department has an exceptionally strong record in obtaining grants. ELi recently reported that in terms of “benchmarking” compared to other municipalities, East Lansing has a mixed comparative profile.
“It’s been great to have the opportunity to work with so many community organizations that have supported and seemed to always be willing to assist with funding countless parks and recreation improvement projects, activities, programs, events and festivals over the past 20+ years,” said McCaffrey in the press release from the City. “It’s also been a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with the outstanding staff in all of the City departments and, especially, the staff who make up the East Lansing Department of Parks, Recreation and Arts.”
“The City has been very fortunate to have Tim serve as the Parks and Recreation director for the last 22 years,” said Lahanas in the same press release. “He has been a highly effective director and we will miss his steady leadership. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”
Wendy Wilmers Longpre, the current Parks & Rec Assistant Director, will serve as Interim Director during the search for a new director.