Thanks to the payouts for sick pay and vacation time he received upon retirement, Huntington Beach's former fire chief earned the highest paycheck among municipal fire chiefs statewide in 2009 — the most recent year for which there is data — state controller's office records show.
Duane Olson's compensation that year, $363,608, eclipsed the total compensation for fire chiefs in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego — the three largest cities in California.
However, because Olson received his large payment in the year of his retirement, it is difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons with California's still-working fire chiefs.
Olson's base salary during his last year of work, $191,349, is largely in line with his peers in California's larger cities. That number was nearly doubled by more than $70,000 in accrued sick time and more than $56,000 in accrued general leave, among other payouts.
At least in 2009, Olson did take in more than all others in the same line of work. Riverside's fire chief, for example, earned $360,411, the second-highest rate in California. Anaheim's fire chief made $230,410, while Santa Ana's chief made $270,428. Each city is larger than Huntington Beach.