Mayor, council discuss Few appointment

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson and city council members discussed at length Tuesday night their November vote to not reappoint fire chief Ronnie Few.

Charles Jones Jr. made a motion at the end of the meeting to reappoint Few fire chief. That measure failed 4-2, which matched the vote from Nov. 15.

Jones and Mitchell Congress were in favor of bringing Few back, while Grayson, Bill Meador, D. Harris Nelson and Cleveland Cole were against the motion.

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Christian Chapel Baptist Church pastor Fred Moore spoke on behalf of a large crowd of Few supporters and asked the mayor and council to reconsider their decision.

Grayson outlined several reasons that he didn’t support Few as fire chief.

“Over the past four years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the department needs a new direction,” Grayson said.

Grayson said that fire department expenses were over budget by $49,000 in 2008, $16,000 in 2009 and $34,000 in 2010.

“We pay department heads to run their department. That’s what we expect him to do,” Grayson said.

The mayor also read part of the job requirements of fire chief, which say that the chief is to “assume personal command at fires.”

“My understanding is that he has yet to attend a fire scene,” Grayson said.

Other reasons Grayson said he didn’t support reappointing Few included a recent fire investigation that they mayor said was “mishandled” and that Few “failed to understand that the fire chief reports solely to the mayor.”

“These are the items that affected my decision,” Grayson said.

Other councilmen took exception to Grayson’s reasons.

Congress said that no one on the council has first hand knowledge of whether Few attended fire scenes or not.

“Chief Few did his job as fire chief,” Congress said, adding “that’s why you have battalion chiefs.”

Mitchell said that Few’s spending ability was limited to $25 and that if he was over budget that those expenditures were approved.

“He did not have access to $1,” Congress said.

Jones said his reading of the fire chief’s job description said he never had to attend all fire scenes.

“It didn’t say he had to attend,” said Jones. “It never said he had to go the fire.”

Jones said Few’s presence at every fire would usurp his commander’s ability to lead because he would have to assume full command upon arrival.

“How are they going to train?” Jones asked.

Bill Meador said that he had his own evaluation he used when making a decision about the appointment.

New council members Cole and Nelson also spoke about their votes.

“I’m doing what in my heart I feel is right for this city,” Cole said.

Nelson said Few was a controversial figure and that he has heard from people who support the council’s Nov. 15 vote as well as those who didn’t.

“I want a fire chief that unites this town and not divides it,” Nelson said. “The fire chief should never be this controversial of a position.”

Congress said whether someone is controversial or not shouldn’t be a factor is decide whether to reappoint them.

“We have other department heads that are controversial positions,” said Congress. “Our job is to decide whether they are doing their job or not. How can you fire someone you don’t even know?”

In other business, the council tabled a vote for this year’s budget after concern over several line items until the next meeting.

The council also approved paving Sunset Road at a cost of $228,000 plus engineering fees. The total amount will be about $40,000 more than what was originally budgeted for the project.