The first few days on the job as the county’s deputy fire chief have been almost a blur for Sterling Jones.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Jones, whose first day on the job was Thursday. “I’m excited for this move. I am excited to make a difference here in Augusta.”
Jones returns to a fire department after nearly three decades in firefighting. His experience, along with his educational background, helped him land the job.
The deputy fire chief job was open to anyone in the department, but no internal candidates applied, Chief Chris James said. The education requirement for the job is a bachelor’s degree, which James said was the main reason for the lack of internal candidates.
Jones spent his last 18 years as a firefighter at the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, retiring in June of 2011 as a battalion chief.
After retiring, he worked in Afghanistan as a fire inspector for DynCorp International. He said the contractor work was not what he expected, and he was excited to get back into a fire department.
“My career has been a curvy road,” he said. “Twenty-seven years later, I haven’t regretted a day.”
Jones got into firefighting when he was 20. He was working at a glass factory but knew he would never be happy doing that kind of work. He decided he needed an education, and the Air Force was a way to pay for it.
He took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and found he was suited to be a fire protection specialist.
“As soon as it came up, I knew that would be my career,” Jones said.
He spent eight years with the Air Force. When he was put on reserve status in October 1993, he knew his best career choice would be to work for a fire department.
While working for Atlanta, Jones was also involved with the department’s internal affairs division, called the Office of Professional Standards. This is one of the job experiences James and his hiring committee particularly liked.
One of Jones’ references put him over the top, James said. He came highly recommended by Kevin J. Cochran, a former U.S. fire administrator and current fire chief in Atlanta.
“He is one of the most highly respected fire chiefs in the country,” James said about Cochran. “That recommendation held a lot of weight.”
James said he hopes Jones will be able to take a lot of administration projects off of his desk so he has time to focus on bigger picture items.
Jones, who has three grown children, said his wife still lives in Atlanta but hopes to move to Augusta soon. He said he will watch how the department runs before making any suggestions on changes.
“I’m not going to come in and make any immediate changes,” he said. “I have ideas, but maybe what they have in place is better.”