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A changing of the guard is happening at the Clinton Fire Department.

First, Clinton Fire Chief Mike Brown announced his retirement after 32 years on the fire department, seven of them as chief. Well-wishers turned out Friday to honor him at a retirement ceremony at Clinton City Hall.

Then tonight, Joel Atkinson will become his successor when he is sworn in as the city’s 11th fire chief.

A lot of changes happened under Brown’s watch – the addition of new firefighting equipment, including a fire and rescue boat to help the department respond to fires, administer emergency medical services and respond to other emergency events on the Mississippi River. He also helped to restructure and provide oversight of the city’s Building and Neighborhood Services department.

And then in January, he led the department through a very difficult time – the line-of-duty death of Clinton Fire Lt. Eric Hosette on Jan. 5.The repercussions from the loss experienced on that day no doubt will ripple through the department for years to come.

As Brown leaves the department, he hands the reins over to Atkinson, who will be sworn in at the start of tonight’s Clinton City Council meeting.

We want to welcome Atkinson to his new role and wish Brown the best as he steps into retirement.

Thank you, chief, for your many years of service.