I am pleasantly surprised to find that Augusta's leadership has promptly and decisively appointed a local professional, Howard Willis, as interim chief of Augusta's fire department.
I am a small businessman whose family business has provided services to Augusta and its citizens for more than 58 years. I don't know Mr. Willis personally, but through my customers, friends, family, firefighters and personal observations, I have had the opportunity to become aware of Chief Willis' professionalism and dedication to our city. My personal observations have shown Chief Willis to be an experienced and capable individual with the ability to provide the leadership Augusta deserves.
In talking with business associates and other people, I find Chief Willis to be highly respected throughout our community. What impresses me most is that his fire fighting career started in Augusta as a volunteer. He advanced through the ranks with the former Richmond County Fire Department, and was a major participant in creating a "hazmat" team long before terrorism was recognized as the threat it is today.
He was promoted to special operations chief of the Augusta Fire Department and, when asked, Mr. Willis took on the duties as Richmond County's Emergency Management Agency director without hesitation. He is well thought of by his peers, and his dedication to Augusta has been unwavering.
Chief Willis is the right person, at the right time, for the right job. I pray that our commissioners will confirm their initial good judgment, and suspend any further waste of our tax dollars by continuing an unnecessary search for an opportunist from out of town. ... I give Chief Willis my full support, and I look forward to meeting one of our local heroes soon.
Jim Whitehead, Augusta
(Editor's note: The writer is the Republican Georgia state senator for District 24.)