After an extensive search and hiring process, the city of McMinnville now has a new fire chief.
Randy Walker, of Statesboro, Ga., officially took over supervision of McMinnville Fire Department on Monday.
Walker heard about the job through some friends at the fire academy in Bell Buckle and decided to make a move. Though he liked Georgia, McMinnville is closer to his relatives.
“I have family still in Kentucky, so it was a better fit for me geographically,” Walker said. “But also I’m just very fond of Middle Tennessee.”
Walker has 30 years firefighting experience. He has previously served as fire chief in three communities, Bulloch County, Ga., where Statesboro is the county seat, Camilla, Ga., and Morehead, Ky. He has had extensive experience in training firefighters, having served as a fire service instructor I and II in Bell Buckle, Tenn., as captain and training/ safety officer at Henderson Fire Department in Henderson, Ky., and as fire training coordinator at Kentucky Technical College in Moorhead, Ky.
Walker also served as deputy state fire marshal in the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office.
Walker said he is impressed with the quality and attitude of the 28 men he will be supervising.
“We have guys with a ton of experience that they bring to the table, and we have some really young guys who are energetic go-getters,” said Walker. “So we’ve got a really good mixture to work with.”
The new chief said his main goal for the job long term is to keep McMinnville Fire Department moving forward, work with the employees to improve and expand the training program, and to bring in new technology and equipment.
“In the short term I’ve been busy trying to get a handle on where we’re at, what we have, make sure the guys’ safety needs are met,” Walker said. “That their basic needs are met and operationally we’re sound.”
He says he is interested in hearing from the men when it comes to equipment, like new breathing apparatus.
“They’re the ones wearing them when they go into a burning building,” Walker said. “So I think they need to have some input into the process. What type, what brand, evaluating the vendors and things like that. I believe in involving them as much as we can, because, as I said before, we have guys here with a wealth of knowledge.”
Walker says he is aware of the controversy concerning the first responder program, but his understanding is the plan is to keep it going.
“Right now we’re keeping everything intact exactly as it has been,” Walker said, noting that across the U.S., statistics show fires are actually on the decrease and fire departments are providing more medical emergency services.
“There are more calls for all EMS delivery systems,” Walker said. “Whether it’s a separate system like we have that’s county operated here, or whether it’s actually housed in the fire department. We just do the first responder here.
“We have an aging population, the baby boomers just keep getting older,” Walker said. “So those emergency medical calls are on the increase. It’s placed a higher demand on all delivery systems. I think the system we have in place, they guys are able to go and be of assistance when necessary, is a good one.”
Walker says the firemen have indicated they are behind the first responder program, and in general seem more interested in public safety than their own gain.
“Even though they do earn a paycheck here, they’re not here to get rich,” Walker said. “They do it as a calling, they do it because their heart is in the right place, and that’s serving the public. That’s the reason I love to be associated with firefighters.”