NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As Sal Cassano's 45-year tenure with the FDNY draws to a close, the fire commissioner says he would do it all over again if he could.
The outgoing FDNY boss' last official event, a promotions ceremony, will be held Thursday. He is being replaced by Mayor Bill de Blasio's pick to lead the department, retired FDNY Chief Daniel Nigro.
Cassano has served in every rank of the Fire Department. He told WCBS 880's Rich Lamb that's one reason firefighters and FDNY officials gave him a standing ovation during a medal ceremony Wednesday in Manhattan.
Outgoing Commissioner Sal Cassano Reflects On 45 Years With FDNY
"Knowing that I was in their shoes at one time, I felt the pain, the problems, the nervousness, the anxiety, knowing that I did that," Cassano said. "They understand that when I make a decision, I have them in mind."
Cassano was promoted to chief of operations immediately after the department's darkest day, 9/11.
"Twelve and a half years later, this department is better prepared, better equipped, better trained, safer, state of the art than we ever have been," Cassano said. "It's an effort I helped, but make no mistake about it, there was a lot of people standing right beside me doing it with me."
Cassano said he has loved being part of the FDNY and would do it again.
"I wish I could go back right now and go into probie school again and start all over," Cassano said. "That's how good this job was.
"Family, God and this job -- that's it," he added.
While de Blasio opted against retaining Cassano, who has served in an interim role since the mayor took office Jan. 1, he has been complimentary about the job Cassano has done.
"I think he's performed admirably, and I give him a lot of respect, particularly for what he did in the middle of the East Harlem tragedy, which was an extremely difficult moment," de Blasio said in April.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories
for more features.