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Ormond Beach Observer Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 8 years ago

WHO TO WATCH IN 2013: Bob Mandarino


As Ormond Beach's new fire chief, Bob Mandarino is part family man, part skateboarding adrenaline junkie and all public servant.


Bob Mandarino has been waiting his whole life for people to call him Chief.

From humble beginnings as a desk clerk at a local hotel, then on to real estate appraisal and, finally, to working for the fire department, Bobby, as he’s called, has a passion for helping people. Sit down with him for a conversation and, within 10 minutes, it becomes clear he’s living the dream.

Mandarino came to Ormond by way of New York. His father accepted a job at Boeing and it wasn’t long before the white sand beaches, crashing waves and temperate weather won him over. Now, he says he can’t imagine living any place else.

He worked in hotels a while, then in real estate. Leslie Bush, whose father owned the Treasure Island Inn, where Mandarino served as gerenal manager, worked as an employee under Mandarino and notes his trustworthiness as one of his greatest strengths.

“He’s as honest as the day is long,” Bush says.

After short time, Manarino became family friends with the Bushes and even introduced Leslie to her husband. But still, he says he felt an urge not only to work with people, but for them.

He found the Ormond Beach Fire Department in 1997, became its active fire chief about a year ago and was given the official title in December.

“My whole life has been in the service industry,” he says. “My previous career ... we serviced the community but we weren’t really helping people like we do in the fire service.”

Barry Baker, former Ormond Beach fire chief, believes working in the service industry has uniquely equipped Mandarino for his new job. His position as a union leader has also given him a perspective that enables him to work with both city officials and firefighters, to their own advantage.

“He gets the facts and makes a decision, and he’s able to sell that (decision) well,” Baker says.

One of Mandarino’s favorite parts of the job is its technology, and he’s doing all he can to help it evolve within his department. Thermal imaging, which allows firefighters to see temperature deviations in a burning building, is one of his favorite toys. Also, iPads help pinpoint what buildings may need inspection. And he could talk at length about the software that lists city hydrants in need of inspection.

“It’s about efficiency,” Mandarino says. “The data is going to be more accurate … so it affects how we provide our service.”

But Mandarino believes in the old ways, too. A few of the community programs in place for residents are free CPR classes and a babysitter training class, which helps equip residents with real know-how, should an actual emergency arise.

And Mandarino has been in more than his fair share of actual emergencies. From the 1998 wildfires to responding to Hurricane Katrina, as it barely made its way out of New Orleans, he is quick to point out that he doesn’t think too much about the danger.

“(Disasters) just happen, and that’s what we’re trained to do: (confront them). You’re trained to accomplish these goals and you go in there and do it,” Mandarino says.

It also has a lot to do with adrenaline, he adds. When the blood is pumping, there’s hardly time to think about the worst-case scenario.

But Mandarino does find time in the week to relax. The way he winds down, though, is by conjuring up more adrenaline. He’s a surfer, and he paddleboards. He works out a the Y almost every day.

Oh, and he is a champion skateboarder.

Scrolling through an online photo album, he shows off a shot of him catching air in Paris, and racing through an obstacle course in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Want to know the best ways to navigate the twists and turns of a obstacle skate park? Mandarino knows. Want addresses to the best skate parks around? Call Mandarino.

As he’s gotten older, though, Mandarino has traded half-pipes for precision races. And now, he only skates on the side — when he’s not fulfilling his other dream, that is, of managing his city’s fire unit.

“My goal when I started here was to end my career as the fire chief, and I have accomplished that,” Mandarino says.

While he’s acheived his goal, he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“(Mandarino has an) opportunity to influence and impact larger numbers of people in that position,” says Baker.

And that’s exactly what he means to do. Impacting people is the same as serving them. And it’s all part of the job.


Age: 50

Family: He and his wife, Marjorie, have one son, now 27 years old.

Position: Ormond Beach Fire Chief

Quirky fact: He once participated in a skateboarding competition near the Eiffel Tower.

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