CHARLOTTE, N.C. --  Deputy Chief Pete Key is celebrating retirement after 41 years of service. 

  • Many in the department call him a mentor
  • He's the first Black chief in the department's history
  • He's also the longest-serving African-American

“Built relationships, nurtured those relationships. It’s been a beautiful journey,” said Key.

Captain Jerry Rogers at Engine 10 called him a big mentor.

“He’d stand behind you, he’d have your back. If we did something silly he’d come down on us, but that’s part of the job,” explained Rogers.

Key’s hit some important milestones, too. He is the first Black chief in the department’s history. He filled in after Jon Hannon resigned. He’s also the longest-serving African-American. While CFD’s been under fire for lack of diversity on the force, Key says it's improving.

“We have to continue to make assessments of ourselves to make changes,” Key added. “We have to attract a younger generation.” 

RELATED: Charlotte Fire Department Takes New Approach at Recruiting

Family was a big theme at Key’s retirement celebration, something he and others feel is all too important in this line of work.

“We’re spending holidays with our second families. You got brothers and sisters you’re related to but then you’ve got your fire deptartment family,” Rogers said.

Key is looking forward to some rest and time spent with his grandkids. 

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