The city of Perry is looking for a new fire chief following the resignation of Joel Gray.
Gray, whose last day at work is Tuesday after nearly 10 years heading the fire department, is moving back home to Clearwater, Florida, to be near and help his family. He lost his brother May 20 and his 18-year-old nephew last year, both to cancer.
“This was indeed a very tough decision for both (my wife) and I,” Gray, 54, said in his resignation letter submitted earlier this month. “From our wonderful welcome reception ... through all our memorable experiences ... we truly have enjoyed our time in Perry.”
City leaders have asked the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs to help identify fire chiefs of similar-sized or larger cities to serve on a candidate screening committee, Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said.
“The reason we’re using the Georgia fire chiefs association is that this is a somewhat technical position, and we want to be fair and select the most qualified person,” Faircloth said. “We want people that know the business to screen the initial applicants to be begin with.”
The expectation is that this panel of experts, which has not yet been formed, would screen all of the applicants for the post and then narrow the list to five to 10 candidates, Faircloth said.
“Of course, mayor and council will have the opportunity to see all the applications as well, but we need to have the chiefs’ experience, based on the application information, (to recommend) who might be the closest fit for what the city needs,” said City Manager Lee Gilmour.
The candidates who make the screening committee’s list likely will be interviewed by the mayor and City Council members.
The process is expected to be similar to how the city selected and hired Police Chief Steve Lynn. The city contracted with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police to narrow applicants to seven or eight people. City leaders then made a selection from among the candidates who made that list.
How this process is different is that the fire chiefs association does not offer a similar service, Faircloth said. But the association is assisting the city by contacting fire chiefs who might be willing to serve on a screening committee, Gilmour said.
The screening committee will likely comprise three to five fire chiefs, Faircloth said.
Meanwhile, the city already has advertised the position using the current job description, Gilmour said. The fire chief also serves as the city’s emergency management director.
A minimum of 10 years of career fire service related work, including five years of supervisory experience, or an equivalent combination of experience and education, is required, according to the advertisement. A 12-month probation period for the new chief also is required.
The salary range is from $62,200 to $90,900, and the actual salary will be dependent on the successful candidate’s level of experience and expertise, Faircloth said.
City leaders hope to hire a new chief within three months.
No interim chief is expected to be appointed, with Gray having organized the daily operations of fire services under three shift commanders, Faircloth noted. The city also has an assistant fire chief.
Faircloth said he was not surprised by Gray’s resignation and expressed admiration for his commitment to his family.
“I think that Chief Gray has done an outstanding job for the city,” Faircloth said. “We’ve got a very good fire department. It operates on a very efficient basis.”