3 locals, 3 others vie for fire chief

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

NATCHEZ — Six candidates have applied for the vacant Natchez fire chief position.

Three of those candidates include battalion chiefs Chris Gibson, David Williams and Aaron Wesley — all who have been with the Natchez Fire Department for 30 years or more.

The other three candidates are from out of state. Only one has interviewed face-to-face, while the other two have interviewed over the phone.

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“All six were quality candidates,” said Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith. “Several were stronger candidates, including one from out-of-town that I would like to see us bring in for an interview.”

The six applicants were chosen from a longer list of applicants compiled by the Natchez Civil Service Commission.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said the board would discuss the six applicants during an executive session tomorrow.

Like Carter-Smith, Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery said one out-of-state candidate shined during the interview process.

“I’m hoping that we can get this person down here for a face-to-face interview,” Fortenbery said. “He had strong qualifications, and that’s what we need for a strong fire department.”

All out-of-state candidates expressed high interest in moving to Natchez, Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said.

“They all seemed very interested, and had exceptional qualifications,” said Arceneaux-Mathis, adding that she did not want to name the out-of-state candidates since they are currently employed by other fire departments.

Ward 2 Alderman Ricky Gray said one of the key points discussed in the interview process was how to improve the city-county fire department relationship.

“Some of the candidates stressed having a better relationship with the county volunteer firefighters, and I think that’s good,” Gray said.

If elected fire chief, Williams said he would like to see the fire department “move forward.”

“I think I should become fire chief because I’ve earned it,” said Williams, who has been with the department for 35 years. “I’ve demonstrated my leadership skills throughout my career, and I have some ideas that I think would better the fire department.”

Gibson compared the Natchez Fire Department to a business, and said he would like to see the department integrate more training and strengthen ties with the county.

“I think my business experience and my years on the department would serve the city well,” he said.

Like Gibson, Wesley emphasized incorporating a higher level of training for Natchez firefighters.

“I would like to see more training, more ‘togetherness’ and more visibility in the community from the fire department,” Wesley said.

While the city is without a fire chief, the department is being led by its four battalion chiefs —Williams, Gibson, Wesley and Leland Rymer.

“Filling this position is a very important decision that the board will have to make,” Smith said.

“There are things we would like to consider in order to improve the fire department, and possibly increase services provided to our citizens.”