Nine Months Later, No Tallahassee Fire Chief

By: Julie Montanaro Email
By: Julie Montanaro Email

By Julie Montanaro
May 2, 2014

The "help wanted" sign has been hanging up at the Tallahassee Fire Department for nearly a year.

Tallahassee firefighters have been without a chief for nine months and no one seems to know when that'll change.

The city's first female fire chief retired July 31st.

Fast forward nine months and the city manager has yet to name her replacement.

"I don't think they put the urgency in it, I really don't. I need the city to make a decision. We need to know where we're at. We need to know where we're going," said Rusty Roberts with the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters.

The fire chief's job was first posted last June with an average of salary of just over $120,000.

A city spokeswoman says the city manager offered the job to a candidate in November, but he had already accepted a job elsewhere.

The job was re-posted December 7th with the words "open until filled."

"It started again and we've had since the beginning of the year 60 new applicants," city spokesperson Michelle Bono said. "We have interviewed 15 of those and the City Manager is considering all of the applicants."

Promotions at the department are on hold. Interim chief John Gatlin is in charge as the department readies to build its first new fire station in nearly 15 years and tries to negotiate a new three-year contract for more than 260 firefighters.

"They want to know what the future holds, but on the day-to-day operations, they have faith in whats going on, they have faith in the management that we have here and we'll continue to move forward," Gatlin said.

"It may be a few weeks, it may be a few months - her (city manager Anita Favors Thompson) commitment is - the most important thing is finding the right person," Bono said.

"We don't want just anyone, we want a really good person here, but we need them here now," Roberts said.

The interim chief says "it's business as usual" at TFD right now.

To give you some idea what that is ... Tallahassee firefighters responded to 432 calls last week, that included 13 fires and 281 emergencies and rescues.

The city manager says she'll be happy to comment when she can announce a new chief.

There are now three finalists for Tallahassee Fire Chief, including current Deputy Chief Wes Roberts.

The three will be interviewed by the city manager next week.

They are: Christopher Armstrong, Deputy Fire Chief in Miramar, Florida, Niles Ford who was most recently fire chief in Lincoln, Nebraska and Wes Roberts, the current Deputy Chief at the Tallahassee Fire Department.

Interviews are set for next Tuesday, November 12.

Letter from Dee Crumpler, Interim Assistant City Manager:

As promised, I wanted to share with the Department Members an update on the Fire Chief hiring process. As the result of interviews conducted this past Friday by two separate and independent committees, comprised of a Citizens/Executive Team and Employee Team, the City Manager has requested individual interviews with three candidates.

The individuals selected for interviews to be held this coming Tuesday, November 12th are as follows:

  1. Mr. Christopher Armstrong - has served since 1988 in various ranks with the Miramar, Florida Fire Department and currently holds the rank of Deputy Fire Chief.

  2. Mr. Niles Ford Ph.D, - has served in the City of Bessemer, Alabama Fire Department, the Fulton County, Georgia Fire Department and served as the Fire Chief of Lincoln Nebraska from 2007 to 2011. Dr. Ford also served a short time as the City Manager for the City of Chamblee, Georgia from 2011 to 2013.

  3. Mr. Wes Roberts - served with Panama City Beach Fire Department, prior to coming to the Tallahassee Fire Department in 1989, where he has held various positions and currently holds the rank of Deputy Chief.

In the event you have any questions, please feel free to email me or call me on my cell phone at 933-8690. Thanks.....have a great day......and be safe!

With Regards,

Dee Crumpler
Interim Assistant City Manager
Safety & Neighborhood Services

300 South Adams Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32301-1731
Office Phone 850-891-8328

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