WINTER GARDEN — Jose P. Gainza Jr. has been sworn in as the new deputy fire chief for the city of Winter Garden.
Gainza will fill the position that was vacated when Matt McGrew was promoted to fire chief in April. Chief Gainza comes to the city from Orange County Fire Rescue and lives in Orlando.
Gainza was the top selection out of 17 candidates competing for the job. McGrew said making this selection was one of the most important decisions he made as fire chief.
“Finding the right person is more than what’s on paper,” he said. “The right candidate must complement the fire chief’s values and vision, they must be a good fit for the city of Winter Garden, and they must be accomplished enough to garner the respect needed to step in and help lead our department.”
McGrew is confident he has found the right person.
Gainza was raised in the Miami and Hialeah area and is fluent in Spanish. After high school, he took classes at Santa Fe Community College and Miami-Dade Community College. In 1985, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he was a hospital corpsman for four years. He also served three years in the Navy reserves, where his last deployment was Operation Desert Storm. After leaving the Navy, Gainza received his fire training at the Central Florida Fire Academy and then obtained his EMT and paramedic certificates from Valencia College.
In 1999, Gainza graduated cum laude from Barry University with a bachelor’s degree in public administration.
His previous job experience includes 25 years with Orange County Fire Rescue and five years as an adjunct professor in the EMT program at Valencia College. During his time with Orange County, Gainza rose through the ranks, starting from a beginning firefighter. He was the Honor Guard commander for 20 years, helped Orange County develop its current EMS transport model and was part of a team that helped the department achieve international accreditation.
Gainza eventually was put in charge of the county’s EMS program and was responsible for expanding EMS transport service to unincorporated West Orange County after Health Central Ambulance went out of business. Through his career experience, Gainza became proficient in labor-management relations and fire service administration. Most recently, Gainza served as the assistant chief of operations, where he had oversight of all 41 fire stations and personnel within Orange County.
Gainza is married to Laurie, who is a retired Orange County Fire Rescue dispatcher. Together, they have four children: Tom, 27; JP, 26; Nick, 25; and Ellery, 21. They also have a 2-year-old grandson, Hunter.
After being sworn in, Gainza’s wife pinned the deputy chief badge on his uniform. Gainza said he is happy to have the opportunity to be part of the Winter Garden family.
“I have been deeply impressed with everyone I’ve met thus far, and I am looking forward to working with the men and women of Winter Garden Fire Rescue Department,” he said. “The city of Winter Garden and the Winter Garden Fire Rescue Department is a very good fit for me and my family.”