Mary Cameli has seen huge growth and changes in Mesa from the time she was hired in 1983 as one of the first two female firefighters in Mesa, to her current role as the Chief of the Mesa Fire and Medical Department. She efficiently and compassionately oversees 20 fire stations and 432 firefighters in the 36th largest city in the United States, with a population of 485,000 people. Cameli effectively leads a department that manages 170 calls a day, receiving 66,000 calls last year.
Each month, Cadence at Gateway recognizes Arizona leaders working to improve the East Valley region in the business, education, government, non-profit and faith-based community. This month, we are proud to recognize Mesa Fire and Medical Department Chief, Mary Cameli as our East Valley Community Champion.
Cameli credits her strong skills of teamwork, positive attitude and hard work ethic to growing up in a family of 13 children, all of whom worked in the family grocery store. Today, she looks for those attributes in the firefighters who join the department.
“Mary has shown tremendous leadership ability, not only in her short time as Interim Chief, but in numerous assignments with the Fire and Medical Department,” City Manager Chris Brady said in a news release when Cameli became Mesa’s first woman chief in 2016. “She has well established relationships with the rank and file members, other City departments and community groups and is dedicated to our mission to serve the community.”
Cameli leads a department that is well known for innovative approaches to firefighting. Other states look to Mesa for the effective and compassionate tactics used in emergency situations.
For example, the city recently received a $12 million health care grant that has been used to fund two-person units of a nurse practitioner teamed up with a paramedic for minor injury calls. Additionally, special units are trained and available for behavioral health calls, which have tripled in recent years.
As Mesa covers a large area, trucks are strategically placed around the city and the department tries to get to any call in five minutes or less. Every engine has a captain, an engineer and two firefighters.
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, near Cadence at Gateway, funds six firefighters and the city has an Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Team (ARFT), a whole engine company and two foam trucks available at the airport for emergencies.
Cameli, often called a trailblazer, leads all these efforts with the wisdom, compassion and never-ending energy that has enriched the Mesa Fire and Medical Department during her 33 years on the team.
View her interview with Mayor John Giles on Mesa Morning Live video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jETbYnUkp4