Augusta Commissioners selected their second choice for the city's fire chief position Monday, after their first choice declined an offer last week over salary terms.
But officials are optimistic that a deal with Bernard Mack, 56, of Philadelphia, will work out.
"It looks like tentatively we may have a new fire chief," said interim City Administrator Walter Hornsby.
At a special called meeting of the Augusta Commission, officials voted unanimously to extend an offer of employment to Mr. Mack, who is a battalion chief/acting deputy chief for the Philadelphia Fire Department. He supervises half of the Philadelphia Fire Department's operating forces - about 250 people - and has 28 years of experience.
Reached by telephone at his home Monday, Mr. Mack said he was caught off guard by the job offer because he had heard last week from a friend that Augusta had selected another candidate.
"I just thought the act of the phone call (Monday) was notification that I hadn't gotten it," Mr. Mack said. "I was totally surprised."
Poor phone reception between Mr. Hornsby and Mr. Mack led them to delay conversations about the job until this morning.
But Mr. Mack said if today's salary negotiations were acceptable to him, he would "absolutely" accept the position.
"I still want to talk to Mr. Hornsby a little more," he said. "We're basically in limbo for a day or so."
The commission's first choice was Stephen Woltz, current chief of the Columbus (Ohio) Division of Fire. Mr. Woltz declined the offer Nov. 9 after salary negotiations failed. He had requested $95,000 a year, but officials were only willing to pay about $85,000. Mr. Hornsby said to offer the fire chief a higher salary would create morale problems.
Mr. Woltz issued a prepared statement for the Columbus media, which said Augusta's offer was "very attractive," but he still had things to accomplish there.
Mr. Mack's salary offer will be in the same range, the interim administrator said. But if he declines the job, commissioners voted to automatically extend an offer to Douglas Lewis, rescue division chief for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Fire & Rescue Department.
"We're all glad that we're going to have some direction as to who we're going to be working for," said former acting Fire Chief Mike Rogers, who attended Monday's meeting. "We'll finally know where we're headed."
Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.