Mayor Malik Names Leon Henderson as Akron’s Next Fire Chief

Akron, Ohio, June 7, 2024  — Today, Akron Mayor Shammas Malik has announced that Akron Fire Deputy Chief Leon Henderson will serve as the city’s next Fire Chief. Chief Henderson replaces former Chief Joseph Natko who announced his retirement from the department in March and took on a new role with the administration as Assistant to the Mayor for Emergency Management. Chief Henderson was sworn in this morning and the city will hold a ceremonial swearing-in celebration in the coming weeks.  

A community town hall is planned for Wednesday, July 10 from 5-6:30pm at the Akron Summit Public Library in downtown Akron (60 S. High St.). This town hall will allow residents to meet the new Fire Chief, ask questions, and hear directly from the Chief about his vision of leadership for the department.  

“I’m excited to announce Leon Henderson as Akron’s next Fire Chief,” said Mayor Shammas Malik. “Chief Henderson is a dedicated public servant with 34 years of service to the Akron community. He possesses the attitude, skillset and leadership qualities we were seeking for the role. We have an outstanding fire department, and I am excited to see how it continues to grow and thrive under Chief Henderson’s leadership. I also want to thank Deputy Chief Steven Kaut for serving as our Acting Chief during our search process. His service and leadership have been invaluable throughout this transition.”  

“It’s the honor of my professional career to serve as Chief of the Akron Fire Department,” said Chief Henderson. “Vince Lombardi once said, ‘The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.’ It is a true privilege to serve the Akron community, and the firefighters/EMTs and administrative staff of our department. I will work closely with our teams as we continue to prioritize the safety of our residents.”  

Chief Henderson will be responsible for planning, organizing, and providing administrative direction and oversight for firefighting, fire prevention, emergency medical services, rescue, code enforcement, safety communications, emergency preparedness, disaster planning, and other fire-service activities. He will work under the Mayor’s oversight as a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet. Chief Henderson will oversee and direct all activities of the Akron Fire Department. 

Chief Henderson’s bio 

Chief Leon Henderson has a proven track record with three decades of experience in fire service, fire prevention, safety communications, and emergency response. A proud graduate of Akron Garfield High School and a veteran of the U.S. Army, Chief Henderson began his distinguished career with the Akron Fire Department in 1990 as a firefighter/paramedic. Over the years, he has risen through the ranks, serving as a Firefighter/Paramedic, Dispatch Supervisor Lieutenant, and Captain Safety Officer, before being promoted to District Chief in 2018 and Deputy Chief in 2022. 

Chief Henderson’s extensive training and certifications reflect his commitment to excellence and continuous improvement. He has undergone training in FEMA Community Preparedness and various Advanced Incident Command Classes, OPOTA Law Enforcement Training at SACS Training Academy, and is an NAUI Certified Rescue Diver. He is also a State Certified Fire Inspector and Instructor. Additionally, he has completed an Arson Investigation Certification at the National Fire Academy and received specialized Information Technology Training. 

In his role as Deputy Chief, Henderson demonstrated exceptional leadership by fostering a culture of adaptive leadership and promoting diversity within the department, achieving a historic 44% minority recruitment rate in the 2024 Akron Fire Department Graduation Class. His commitment to community safety is reflected in the creation of fire prevention education programs, ensuring the safety of Akron businesses and Akron Public Schools. 

As District Chief, Henderson managed critical projects, including the implementation of a consolidated CAD system, resulting in significant cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency. His strategic oversight in deploying the WestNet Alerting System and conducting the first mock drill for the Safety Communication Center further showcased his dedication to improving emergency response capabilities. 

Beyond his technical expertise, Chief Henderson is a proactive leader in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. He served on the City of Akron's Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce, launched the Akron Fire Department Human Relations Committee, and designed a job recruitment task force in collaboration with other city departments and local organizations to enhance employment opportunities. 

Chief Henderson’s career is marked by his dedication to public safety, community engagement, strategic leadership, and an unwavering commitment to serving the Akron community. His extensive experience in project management, communications, and emergency services consistently demonstrates his ability to lead teams, implement innovative solutions, and foster collaboration across various departments and organizations.