By Jean Cole
Athens city officials are one step closer to selecting the city’s next fire chief.
After interviewing three city employees for the job in March, they expanded their search and interviewed six candidates from other cities this week. Among the six are two candidates from nearby fire departments — Decatur Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Lorenzo Jackson Jr. and Hartselle Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Shelton. The rest are from departments farther away but all from Alabama. Among them:
• Jeffrey Birdwell, deputy chief of Madison Fire and Rescue;
• Shane Boyd, battalion chief for Bessemer Fire Department;
• Rodney Hartsfield, deputy fire chief for Auburn Fire Division;
• Roy Willis Jr., assistant chief of Birmingham Fire & Rescue Service Department.
City Council members are searching for someone to replace former Chief Danny Southard, who recently retired. The chief of Athens Fire and Rescue must be able to supervise three fire stations, about 40 employees and a $3 million budget.
Starting pay for the job is $80,807.
There is currently no interim chief overseeing the Athens fire department.
Council members will choose a chief from among the six they just interviewed plus the three locals. Below is background on each of the three local candidates, which was obtained through their interviews, and on each of the other candidates, which was obtained from their resumes:
• David Andrews — Battalion chief for Athens Fire and Rescue with 14 years of firefighting experience who believes the department needs consistent operating procedures, additional firefighters, and more emergency medical technicians. He grew up in western Limestone County and he and his wife, Michelle, live in Athens.
• Jeffrey Birdwell — Deputy chief of Madison Fire and Rescue since 2003. A 1984 graduate of Tanner High School, Birdwell became a fire captain in 1995. He graduated cum laude from Athens State University with a bachelor’s degree in public safety in 2003, earned a master’s degree in public administration from Jacksonville State University in 2007. Second in command over the Madison department. No personal information provided on resume.
• Shane Boyd — Battalion chief for Bessemer Fire Department since 2007. He began as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician in 1994 for Birmingport Fire District and is now a firefighter and paramedic serving as emergency medical services director for Bessemer’s department. He coordinates continuing education in training and EMS for 109 personnel and serves as training officer for the regional response hazardous materials team. Earned bachelor’s degree in public safety from ASU. No personal information provided on resume.
• Rodney Hartsfield — Deputy chief of Auburn Fire Division since 1996, which includes five stations, 100 full-time employees and a $4.5 million budget. Earned master’s degree in executive fire service leadership in 2007 from Grand Canyon University. Married nine years to Apreill Curtis-Hartsfield. They have no children.
• Lorenzo Jackson Jr. — Battalion chief for Decatur Fire and Rescue since 2008. He has 30 years of experience in fire rescue and suppression with the Decatur department. Earned bachelor’s degree in public safety from ASU in 2003 and master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University in 2009. No personal information provided on resume.
• Tony Kirk — Athens Fire and Rescue’s fire prevention chief. He has 26 years of experience as a firefighter and believes the department needs more firefighters, a north-side station in the future, and a firefighter-training center. Kirk and his wife, Belinda, have two grown children, Miranda Bowen and Andrew Kirk. Both live in Athens.
• Steven Shelton — Chief of fire, rescue and emergency services for Hartselle Fire and Rescue. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public safety from ASU in 2004. He has 23 years of professional firefighting experience and numerous educational and professional certifications, qualifications and honors. He is married and has two children and two grandchildren.
• Shey Spears — Recreation coordinator at the Athens Recreation Center for the past five years who is looking for a career change. He and his wife, Renaada, have one son, Shey, and live in Athens.
• Roy Willis Jr. — Assistant chief of Birmingham Fire & Rescue since 2011. He began his firefighting career in 1987 with the Birmingham department and moved up the ranks, eventually serving as battalion chief of EMS before becoming assistant chief. He is a paramedic and holds a bachelor’s degree in public safety from ASU. No personal information provided on resume.