Charleston announces four finalists for fire chief job

  • Posted: Saturday, April 14, 2012 12:25 a.m.

A nationwide search has come down to three men and a woman, each of whom hopes to become Charleston’s next fire chief.

Mayor Joe Riley on Friday revealed the final four — a fire chief from Virginia and deputy fire chiefs in Missouri, Oregon and Alabama. The four were chosen from among 61 applicants for the position and will visit the city April 30 as part of the selection process, Riley said.

The new chief will succeed Thomas Carr, who retired in March due to complications from his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Frank Finley has been serving as the 319-member department’s interim chief until a permanent replacement is found.

Riley said the four finalists are:

Paul J. Berardi, deputy fire chief of the Kansas City (Mo.) Fire Department. He has 26 years fire service experience, including 12 years as deputy chief.

Karen E. Brack, deputy chief of the Eugene (Ore.) Fire Department. She has 29 years of fire service experience, including four years as deputy chief.

Richard Brannon, deputy chief of Mobile (Ala.) Fire-Rescue. He has 33 years in the fire service, including six as deputy chief.

Edwin W. Smith, chief for Henrico County (Va.) Fire Department. He has 35 years of fire service, including four as chief.

Riley said each of the four is an impressive candidate.

“We will have before us a group of very talented and qualified candidates for the vitally important role of fire chief,” Riley said. “I look forward to the interview process and to enable the candidates to get acquainted with our outstanding community.

“I take this process very seriously, as the selection of a fire chief is probably one of the most important duties of a mayor. I know my decision will be a difficult one,” Riley added.

He said part of the candidates’ visits will include orientation and a tour of the city and its neighborhoods. The candidates will meet with members of the fire department and tour some of the stations.

The city launched a nationwide search in December to replace Carr, 57, who became Charleston’s fire chief in November 2008. He took the reins of a department still grieving and rebuilding from the Sofa Super Store blaze that killed nine city firefighters the year before.

Carr is widely credited with adopting modern techniques and standards, as well as charting a more coordinated, regional approach to firefighting. He was named Career Fire Chief of the Year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs in 2010.

Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5556.

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