3 Augusta fire chief candidates named

Interviews are expected to be held in January

An Arizona emergency manager who wants to return to Georgia and a South Carolina assistant fire chief pursuing a Ph.D. in fire and emergency management will compete with interim Chief Chris James to lead the Augusta Fire Department.


City Administrator Fred Russell released the names and current titles of the three finalists, each of whom holds a master’s degree, after a committee's decision Monday to invite the three men in for interviews.

One finalist, Glenn Jones, is emergency and fire safety coordinator for the city of Peoria, Ariz. He said most of his job duties involve emergency management and workplace safety, but was quick to cite his Georgia background as deputy fire chief in the metro Atlanta suburb of Paulding County.

“I've been out here for about seven years,” said Jones, whose master's degree is in leadership with an emphasis on disaster preparation from Grand Canyon University. “It's time to go back to Georgia.”

As emergency and fire safety coordinator for Peoria, Jones works on his own most of the time, but Peoria public information manager Bo Larsen said that Jones made routine safety training fun and interesting for employees and that his emergency communication skills were excellent.

Another finalist, David Greene, is pursuing a Ph.D. in fire and emergency management at Oklahoma State University, said his boss, Colleton County (S.C.) Fire-Rescue Chief Barry McRoy .

“He's extremely dedicated,” McRoy said of Greene. “He's worked his whole life to get to this point.”

Greene has a Web site, davidgreene.org, that details his work experience, education and articles published in Carolina Fire-Rescue EMS Journal.

Greene helped rural Colleton County, situated between Beaufort and Charleston, to merge numerous volunteer fire department into a single department and now oversees a staff of 70 full-time firefighters and approximately 200 volunteers, McRoy said.

The two finalists will be invited to Augusta in January to interview, along with James, who has served in the interim chief’s position since the October exodus under pressure of four of the department's top leadership.

At the time, James was the only member of the department's upper ranks to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree. James has been with the department since 1987, most recently serving as training chief, and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Brenau University, with a concentration in management.

James, who received a $9,000 salary bump to serve as interim chief, has had to lead the department through morale issues and disorder that critics said was endemic under the six-year leadership of Howard Willis.

Willis, his two deputy chiefs and his brother Tommy Willis announced their retirements in October as the city investigated Tommy Willis’ misuse of city resources to steer fire victims toward the board-up company he managed, a botched investigation into a January fire that injured firefighter Steven Jenne, and other issues. All were already eligible for full retirement.

Russell said the three finalists “each bring a different set of skills and abilities to the table, but any of the three would serve us well.” He said he hopes to hire someone by March.

The city has yet to determine whether to hire a separate Emergency Management Agency director, a formerly salaried position that Howard Willis performed at no extra charge.

“That's a decision we'd have to make in conjunction with the mayor,” Russell said, because, under Georgia law, the EMA director reports to the mayor.

The committee that interviewed fire candidates by telephone included Rus­sell, Deputy Administrators Tameka Allen and Bill Shanahan, and the fire chief of Sandy Springs, Ga.

Russell said he had brought in his former Richmond, Va., colleague Jack McElfish, who is now the chief in Sandy Springs, because “he knows the business.”

McElfish is helping out at no charge to the city, Russell said.