Only three Augusta Commission members took the opportunity to interview fire chief candidate David Greene on Thursday, but they asked tough questions – about working with unions and technical colleges and developing a training center into a regional training hub.
Greene acknowledged he had never dealt with unions in Colleton County, S.C., where he has been assistant chief since 1998.
Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle quizzed Greene on his impressions of and management plans for Augusta’s large fire department, but Greene said he was not that familiar.
“I believe you have 19 stations,” he said. “That is really the limit of the information that I saw.”
Despite a lengthy résumé replete with certifications, degrees and even hours toward a Ph.D. in fire and emergency management administration, Greene said he was no “paper tiger” and possessed real in-the-field experience including large industrial fires, line-of-duty deaths, mass casualties and hazardous materials calls, in addition to grant-writing experience.
Asked about his experience working with volunteer firefighters in Colleton County, Greene said it would be difficult to do the same in Augusta.
Volunteers are “very difficult to utilize in an urban area,” Greene said, adding, “I believe what you’re currently doing is certainly appropriate for your service area.”
Greene said he was familiar with the test now in use for Augusta firefighter trainees, the Candidate Physical Ability Test, although Colleton County had abandoned the test on the advice of the county attorney.
After the interview, City Administrator Fred Russell declined to comment on Greene. Brigham said only that he was “looking for leadership” in the city’s next fire chief.
Augusta Firefighter Association Vice President Charles Masters, who attended the interview, said that despite his résumé, Greene might not have the experience Augusta needs.
“The learning curve from his department to this department is great,” Masters said.
Russell said he didn’t expect to be influenced by the firefighters union in making his recommendation about the candidate the commission should hire.
“It depends on whether or not they influence any of the commissioners,” he said.
Augusta has been without a permanent chief since the pressured retirement in September of Howard Willis, who resigned with three others in the department’s top ranks amid investigations into policy violations, firefighter injuries and other issues.
The next candidate for chief, Peoria (Ariz.) Emergency Management and Safety Coordinator Glenn Jones, interviews at 10 a.m. today.
The third finalist selected to interview, Interim Fire Chief Chris James, interviews Tuesday.