Stephens named fire chief

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Troy City Council on Tuesday appointed Michael “Buford” Stephens as the next fire chief, nearly a month after four members of the Troy Fire Department interviewed for the soon-to-be vacated position.

“I’m honored to work for the City of Troy and serve the citizens of Troy in this position,” Stephens said after the meeting. “I look forward to learning a lot from current Chief Thomas Outlaw before he retires and continuing to efforts he has put in place.”

Stephens, a 15-year veteran who hold the rank of captain, said he decided to interview for the position because he seeks to continue to grow and develop in his career. “There were three good guys who interviewed who didn’t get it,” he said. “And they were just as deserving as me.”

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The other candidates included Capt. Mike Rhodes, Capt. Curtis Shaver and Fire Marshal Willie Jones.

The vote to appoint Stephens came on a recommendation from District 2 Councilman Greg Meeks. “We have four qualified candidates and I’d like to thank you all for your years of service,” he said. “I know we’re going to make one person happy and three of y’all are going to be disappointed.”

Meek’s recommendation drew of the support of all but Dejerilyn King Henderson, District 5, who abstained.

“I don’t think it was right, I don’t think it’s fair. It’s an injustice,” she said during her comments at the end of the meeting. “When you have been on a job for 35 years and don’t have the opportunity to progress, it’s an injustice.”

King was referring to Jones, the fire marshal and only African American candidate to interview for the position. “I support the fact to we have to have a fire chief … and I can support the fire department, but I don’t support the methods used for the decision,” she said after the meeting, adding that Jones “didn’t have the opportunity to move up.”

Council members said the decision was a difficult one, but ultimately they made the decision based on qualifications.

“Four fine men interviewed and one of the most difficult things for a city council to do is pick one of the four,” said District 1 Councilman Charlie “Sarge” Dunn. “In the short time I’ve been on the city council, we’ve had to appoint two police chiefs and two fire chiefs. It’s not an easy job, and you’ve got to take yourself out of it and do the best you can for the city.”

Marcus Paramore, District 3, echoed the comments. “After interviewing the four candidates, Capt. Stephens was the most qualified individual to be chief,” he said.

Council president Johnny Witherington, District Four, said when introducing the agenda item that “one of the most difficult things for a city council to do is pick one of four fine men for a position.

The fire chief is one of four positions appointed by the council. The others include police chief, city clerk/treasurer and municipal court judge.

In other business on Tuesday, the council:

• Heard from resident Marie Diskmukes regarding drainage problems at her 206 Whitetail Drive residence. She said she believes improperly installed underground utility cables and sidewalks are the cause of the drainage, which routinely floods her yard and property. She said she has consulted with the developer and city officials for more than five years and is “begging for help.” Mayor Jason Reeves said the city would contract with a professional engineer to review the situation.

• Approved an off-premises beer and table wine license for Circle K at 101 Highway 231 South. The business is currently licensed as Kangaroo.

• Heard the first reading of an amendment that would allow the city to enter into financing agreements with the Health Care Authority regarding the financing and debt service for Troy Regional Medical Center. The city currently levies a 1 cent sales tax to support the operations of the hospital and is the guarantor on the hospital’s debt, which is financed through short-term vehicles. Reeves said the Health Care Authority is exploring opportunities to refinance that debt to take advantage of lower interest rates, either through bonds of bank financing. The restructuring would allow the city to reduce its debt obligation, as well, through the financing agreement. “This is just housekeeping to allow us to be in a position to act on this, if the Health Care Authority asks us to do so,” he said. “It does not remove the 1-cent sales tax.”

• Heard a report from Wayne Buchanan of the Boys and Girls Club of Pike and Surrounding areas.

“When I first moved here two years ago, we had 12 children we served and two part-time staff,” he said. “Today, in our after-school program,m, we are serving over 80 children. Now, in addition to myself, we have a full-time program coordinator, three other professionals and four interns from Troy University. Last year we had more 200 volunteers … and we couldn’t do this without the support of Troy.”