There was nary a dry eye inside Wilmington's Emergency Operations Center, as Wilmington's finest celebrated the 32 year career of retiring fire chief Willie Patrick.

Appointed as chief back in 2007, Patrick led the Wilmington Fire Department for six financially austere years. During a tearful goodbye speech, he reminisced about how in spite of facing dire budget troubles, the WFD was able to get a new, much-needed fire boat and prevent layoffs thanks to federal grants.

"When I think of my career, I've been blessed," said Chief Patrick. "I started out in the fire service 32 year ago, not knowing a whole lot about what it meant to be a firefighter and immediately understood that it was not a job, it was a calling."

Afterwards, with fire truck sirens blowing and lights flashing, the WFD saluted Chief Patrick, who then drove off with his family.

"I continue an unwavering faith that the men and women of the Wilmington Fire Department will continue to serve our community with the highest level of dedication and valor as you've done in the past," said Chief Patrick.

Anthony Goode takes over as the new Chief of Fire. Goode will be sworn in tomorrow, hours after Mayor-elect Dennis P. Williams' swearing-in ceremony.

"I wish him the best. I think that there are still challenges and hopefully Anthony will be up for meeting those challenges," said Patrick. Challenges include how to fund 13 firefighter positions because the current grant, known as a SAFER grant, is about to expire.

"[Chief Patrick] had to make some very tough decisions during a very bad time, but he was a great chief," said outgoing Mayor James Baker, in what was his final official appearance as the city's mayor. "I wish the next administration well because there's a lot of learning that you have to do in a very short period of time."