A 29-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department was chosen to succeed Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers when the department's chief retires next week.

Derrick Sawyer, currently fire deputy commissioner for operations, will take the lead in the department June 14, Mayor Nutter announced Wednesday.

Sawyer, 54, is a Philadelphia native who joined the department in 1985 and has served in a number of positions.

He is part of a younger generation of firefighters taking leadership roles, something that the firefighter's union is happy about.

"It's a new generation now. Derrick and I are both part of that generation," Joe Schulle, president of Local 22, said after the announcement. "Hopefully we'll start working together... rather than being so adversarial."

Ayers' last day is June 13. He spent 40 years with the department.

"Years from now when people will be talking about great public service, there's no doubt in my mind that one name will be on that list," Nutter said. "That name is Lloyd Ayers."

Nutter described Ayers as a man of tolerance and strength.

Philadelphia is safer, stronger and "better because of his service," Nutter said, citing Ayers' focus on fire prevention.

The number of civilian fire deaths were significantly reduced during Ayers tenure, Nutter said. Last year, 24 people died in house fires compared to more than 60 in the mid-2000s.

Ayers said he is confident in Swayer as well as the new team that Nutter announced Wednesday.

"I've watched him since he's come in the door and he's done great," Ayers said of Sawyer. "He's listened. He's learned. He's taken all the new training opportunities."

The new leadership team named Wednesday is:

Jesse Wilson will be Deputy Commissioner for Operations.

Diane Schweitzer will be Deputy Commissioner for Administration.

Yolanda Stallings will be executive chief for performance and strategic planning.

Peter Crespo will be executive chief.

All appointments are effective July 1.

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