Originally created 10/27/01

Ronnie Few redux

Some people called it a racist witch hunt. That's the way three Augusta commissioners characterized the treatment that former fire chief Ronnie Few received in Augusta.

Recall that just a year ago three Augusta commissioners - Lee Beard, Marion Williams and Willie Mays - traveled to Washington, D.C. to tell the world what a racist city Augusta is for its treatment of Chief Few.

Few was being investigated by the Special Grand Jury while the Augusta Fire Department was being probed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

No charges ever resulted from those investigations, but there were a lot of bad feelings in the African-American community that Few was treated unfairly.

That was then. Today Few faces new problems as fire chief for the District of Columbia - the job he left Augusta for.

After months of discontent, the firefighters' union on Wednesday voted "no confidence" in the chief. It was not unanimous, but nearly so.

Firefighters say Few embarrassed the department, risked firefighters' safety and misled the city council. The list of grievances against the chief goes on for two pages.

Augustans aren't in a position to measure Few's performance in D.C. We can say he brought many improvements to the fire department here - and left a lot of unanswered questions about preferential pay raises and a badly managed fire chiefs' convention that left the city with thousands of dollars worth of unpaid bills and a measure of embarrassment.

Political observers know that there are few organizations more political than fire departments. Yet when a union says it has no confidence in its chief, people pay attention.

The trouble Few has now has nothing to do with those he said persecuted him in Augusta. Commissioners Beard, Williams and Mays: Are you listening? It's entirely possible Few couldn't cut it in Augusta not because of his skin color but because of his management style.


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