Katrice Bryant has been in her new job for only five days, but she can already tell it'll be a challenge.
The 24-year-old University of Georgia graduate is the new resource officer at the Richmond County Fire Department. Her newly created position, which pays $34,259 a year, was a sore subject for some city officials and two Augusta commissioners who voted against the position more than four months ago.
Ms. Bryant reports to fire Chief Ronnie Few. She assists in writing grant proposals, acts as liaison between administrators and firefighters, writes a quarterly newsletter, designs and implements special projects, and acts as department spokeswoman.
Hiring Ms. Bryant did not require adding a new position or money to the department's budget, Chief Few said. It helps keep heat off the chief and adds diversity to his staff.
"I wasn't looking strictly at diversity when she was hired. This was an opportunity to put a bright person in that position, and she just happened to be African-American," Chief Few said. "She'll present a positive image on behalf of the department to the community. There will be quite a number of new community service initiatives that we'll present to the city, and she'll be instrumental in communicating those new projects to the city."
Ms. Bryant received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1995 and a master's in public administration in 1997, both from the University of Georgia.
The Vienna, Ga., native interned in the city planning department in Athens, Ga., for one year, developing computer programs and tourist and zoning maps. She designed bus routes for 1996 Olympic Games events in Athens.
Her first week in Augusta has been mostly orientation. But a demanding fire chief has high expectations and a lot of work in store for her.
"I think I'll have my plate full for a while. I already have one project on my list of immediate things to do," Ms. Bryant said.
It's called Are You OK, a project directed at assisting older and disabled residents and part of Chief Few's efforts to make the fire department more community-oriented.
"Each evening around 7 p.m., citizens registered in the program will get a call from one of our officers. If there is no answer at the citizen's home, we'll go out and check on them to make sure everything is OK," Ms. Bryant said.
"This program and others will help make the department more involved in the community," she said. "It'll give the public an opportunity to see a different side of public protective services."
Firefighters lined up at her door Wednesday for an opportunity to bend her ear. She's also been able to visit fire substations.
"I've really gotten a warm reception from the firefighters and other officials. Everyone has been very nice," she said. "I know about some of the internal conflict. But I haven't run into any problems. Maybe it's because I haven't been put out there yet."
The only fear she has is that because of her age, some people won't take her seriously at first.
"But I think once people see that I'm very serious about this job, and they see my professionalism and business attitude, then, eventually, if not at first, they will take me seriously," she said.
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