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New Unified Fire Authority chief

Veteran firefighter and three-term Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen is slated to take over the top spot at the state's largest fire department.

The board of Salt Lake County's Unified Fire Authority on Tuesday unanimously approved Jensen, currently the department's deputy chief, to replace retiring Chief Don Berry starting Oct. 1. The decision begins a process to be completed Sept. 15 when the board will likely ratify the vote.

Jensen said he is honored by the board's decision.

"It's a privilege … and of course, it's a little bit scary to move to the top position," he said.

Jensen, who was nominated for the job by Berry, has worked 13 years for the agency, starting as a firefighter and paramedic before being promoted to captain, serving as a public information officer and later as deputy chief. While looking forward to his new task as head of an agency with a $50 million annual budget that serves 375,000 residents in unincorporated Salt Lake County and a handful of cities, Jensen said the job also probably marks the end of his political career.

"The board and I have talked and it's likely going to be 'see-as-you-go' in terms of balancing the responsibilities as chief and my obligations as a County Council member," Jensen said. "But it probably means my political life will take a backseat after I finish my term in 2012."

Jensen has represented west Salt Lake County's District 2 on the council since 2000.

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com