Wilmington, NC – Fire Chief Sam Hill says he'll step down at the end of next March after two decades running the Fire Department, giving the city six months to begin its search for a successor.
The chief's tenure was marked in recent years by some controversy, with firefighters complaining publicly about their pay and the department's personnel policies, complaints Hill attributes to a small, dissatisfied group.
Two assessments conducted last year, one contracted by the city and one by the firefighters' association, recommended numerous changes to the department. The Chief and employee representatives disagree on the extent to which those recommendations have been implemented.
With the chief stepping down next spring, City Councilwoman Pat Delair says she thinks an outside hire could improve morale at the department.
"I believe that most of the concerns of the firefighters association will go away if we hire someone who we can be responsive to their concerns and maintaining a professional fire department."
Wilmington firefighter, and firefighter's association representative, Donald Ragavage echoes Delair's call for new blood in the top job.
Ragavage attended the Chief's formal announcement at the groundbreaking for the Seagate Fire Station yesterday and said the department needs more changes in the top positions.
"With his resignation, or his retirement, maybe some of the others will go ahead and retire too and we can go ahead and get this fire department back on where it needs to be."
However, Hill says all of his top officers plan to stay on after his retirement, helping with the transition to the new chief.
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