Augusta fire chief decision may come sooner than next commission meeting

Russell asks for vote at meeting next Monday

A decision on who will be Augusta's next fire chief might come before Feb. 7, the date of the Augusta Commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting.

 

City Administrator Fred Russell said he will recommend that the commission instead vote on his recommendation of Interim Chief Chris James at a special meeting Monday.


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Russell said making the decision sooner than the commission’s next regular meeting will allow James to be “part of the conversation” about hiring another chief candidate, Glenn Jones, for a position in the Richmond County Emergency Management Agency.

“I don’t want to build this house around somebody that doesn't have enough commission votes,” Russell said.

James, a veteran firefighter who began with the Richmond County Fire Department, has been involved in departmental reorganization since he was named interim chief in October.

Commissioner Bill Lockett suggested last week hiring James before Feb. 7, and no commissioner has spoken against Russell's recommendation.

“It seems like everybody is looking at taking Fred's recommendation on that,” Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said.

Still, it wouldn't be the first time if the commission approved someone other than Russell's recommendation for the top fire post.

In 2005, the body voted to approve then-Commissioner Andy Cheek’s recommendation of Howard Willis, who was not Russell’s recommendation, for fire chief.

Willis served both as chief and EMA director until his abrupt retirement announcement, along with that of his two deputy chiefs and a battalion chief, in September.

Since then, Battalion Chief Wayne Taylor has served on an interim basis as EMA director, a position required by state law that reports to the mayor.

The EMA office, which currently has two employees, stands to expand under a strategic plan for the department recommended by James.

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