Pike County Times

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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal by clicking here. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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BREAKING NEWS: Panel to Help with Hiring Process of Fire Chief
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - The Pike County Commission voted to empanel an interview committee for the fire chief of the Pike County Fire Department at the Commission meeting last night, and Pike County Times conducted a quick interview at the end of the meeting to find out the process for the panel recommendation for hiring the new fire chief. In Pike County, the county manager is tasked with hiring all department heads though the Board of Commissioners gives final approval for the hiring of a department head. There was quite a bit of discussion in the meeting regarding a fire panel which has been utilized in the past.

In 2014, Mike Singleton, Deputy Chief Operations - Pike County Emergency Services, Rusty Smith, Deputy Chief EMS - Pike County Emergency Services, Jimmy Totten, Deputy Chief EMA - Pike County Emergency Services, Wallace H. Presley - Retired City of College Park, and Harold Douglas Miller - Retired City of Atlanta were asked to assist with the review of applications, interviews, and the final selection of a fire chief. Then past County Manager John Hanson made the final decision on hiring which was then presented to the commissioners for final approval. Click here to read the fire panel article.

During last night’s meeting, County Manager Brandon Rogers asked the commissioners to approve a panel of five individuals from the community who have experience working with the fire department in various capacities in Pike and the surrounding communities including emergency management, ambulance, fire department, coroner, and sheriff’s office.

He told commissioners that these people interact with the fire department on a regular basis and could help him make an educated recommendation for chief. Rogers told commissioners that he did not want his lack of knowledge to hurt the county and was looking for an unbiased opinion on this hiring decision.

Commissioners discussed the number of people on the panel and whether they were in agreement with a panel at all. During this discussion, Rogers mentioned questions that he needed an answer to including the possibility of budgeting for a fire chief, a timeline for when volunteers should get to the scene, and who is in charge of an accident scene. He said that he did not know the answers to these questions and that he needed insight from the panel to help make an educated decision in his recommendation for the next fire chief.

Commissioner Jason Proctor voiced a concern that commissioners would rely on the recommendation of the county manager without doing their own research to make the final decision on the fire chief. Discussion finally centered around the panel doing the original vetting and a 3-2 vote was given for a 5-member panel to be appointed at the discretion of the county manager. It was stressed that this will be the county manager’s decision with the final approval of the county commission.

Commissioners Proctor and Jenkins were opposed, but the vote passed.

Members of the current fire panel are as follows: Jimmy Totten, Current Pike County EMA Director, Jody Salter, Veterans Ambulance employee who is an active volunteer fire fighter in Pike County, Clay Tillery, Sgt. With Zebulon PD and coroner and volunteer fire fighter in Lamar County, Keith Jackson, an active volunteer fire fighter and current Lt. with the Pike County Fire Department, and Kevin Cress, Captain with the Sheriff’s Office and experienced with 911.

Rogers advised Pike County Times after the meeting that he is looking for answers to questions about how the fire department works and well as how everyone works together in order to take care of the residents of this county on an emergency call. He gave an example of a life flight call and said that all these people have a part of a life flight call, but the fire department is in charge and everyone has to be able to work together.

When asked what the timeline is for the application process, he advised that this will be posted soon along with being in next week’s paper. The county tries to put items like this on website about the same time that items appear in the paper.

“Bobby [Wilkerson] is doing a really good job so I don’t feel pressure to rush into it,” he said. “We’ve got time.”

Current Interim Fire Chief Wilkerson was appointed after past Fire Chief Rick O’Barr was fired in an Emergency Special Called Meeting on June 1, 2021. Click here to read this article.

When asked about the possibility of financial compensation for the fire chief, Rogers said, “I don’t know yet. It’s been asked by citizens, firemen, commissioners… I’ve been asked by many people about it.”

Rogers said that he thinks it is time to have that conversation because these guys are putting in a lot of time and work for the county as the head of the fire department. He said that he did not know where that conversation would go but again stressed the need for a discussion on this.

There is history in the county for some compensation for a fire chief and that is discussed more in depth in the Breaking News Article linked above. Chief Henderson received $1,500 per month in 2009. When he was fired in front of a standing room only commission meeting on December 31, 2010 by past County Manager Bill Sawyer, that compensation went away and has not been re-instituted despite the fact that fire chiefs often spend 20 to 40 hours a week volunteering for the county.

When asked about the timeframe for hiring a new fire chief, Rogers advised that there isn’t a current time frame, but he doesn’t want this to be a long process. “If it takes a month to do it, it takes a month to do it.”

The county will likely advertise for a couple of weeks and then begin to go through the panel process for vetting and interviewing candidates. Pike County is possibly looking at 4 to 6 weeks before a new fire chief is hired.

Thank you to First Bank of Pike for sponsoring Pike County Times’ Breaking News Alerts! First Bank of Pike has been serving customers in Pike County and the surrounding area since 1901 and offers Personal and Business banking with a personal touch. Services include checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, and IRA’s. Mobile Banking and Bill Payment services are also available! Click here for more. Please let First Bank of Pike know that you appreciate their sponsorship of Breaking News Alerts on Pike County's only FREE online newspaper!

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