Columbus Fire Chief Joel Thacker, one of the signature hires of Mayor Kristen Brown, has resigned after less than five months on the job.
His last day is Sept. 17.
Brown announced Wednesday in a news release that she has selected veteran Columbus firefighter David Allmon to become the next fire chief.
Brown said Thacker was leaving for personal reasons. She declined to elaborate.
Brown, in her first year as mayor, hired Thacker in mid-March. He was sworn in as fire chief May 22, earning a salary of $72,000 a year, according to the city clerk-treasurer’s office.
At the time of the hire, Brown said she chose the 38-year-old Thacker, a battalion chief with the White River Township Fire Department in Johnson County, because of his demonstrated ability to broaden the scope of firefighting services to include additional rescue and emergency medical services.
Thacker was a 20-year veteran of that department.
“I really think Joel can take this department to the next level,” Brown said at the time of his hire.
She envisioned Thacker working as a kind of emergency management director who would spearhead the creation of a disaster management plan.
Thacker was heavily involved in the city’s process of awarding its next emergency ambulance services contract. The mayor and Thacker set requirements for prospective providers to meet and then proposed that the Columbus Fire Department provide the service.
Ultimately, the fire department was dropped from consideration because of startup costs. In August, the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety chose Columbus Regional Hospital to continue as the provider.
Allmon is a 29-year veteran of the Columbus Fire Department and current president of the local firefighters union, Columbus Firefighters Local 2190.
He is a veteran of the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s task force on fire investigation and arson.
“David is exactly the leader our fire department needs today,” Brown said in the news release. “His leadership skills, his experience and the respect he commands from our firefighters are particularly vital as we progress the fire department to a more professional, merit-based department with an expanded scope of services, including emergency medical, rescue and disaster services.”
Allmon also has trained in a variety of disciplines at the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Academy.
“I’m excited to lead our team and to work with Mayor Brown,” Allmon said in the news release. “We share the same vision and passion for delivering the very best public safety services to the people in our community.”
Allmon supported Brown’s candidacy as mayor, reflecting that support — on behalf of the local firefighters union — in a letter to the editor published Oct. 30 in The Republic.
“It is because of Kristen Brown’s desire to place public safety as a priority in her administration; and because we believe in her, our firefighters union, Local 2190, is steadfast in the belief she will make an outstanding mayor for the city of Columbus,” Allmon wrote in the letter.
Brown said Allmon was also a candidate in the earlier search for fire chief and was one of the top candidates then.
Allmon’s appointment is pending the approval of the Columbus City Council at its next meeting on Sept. 18. Brown said under state statute that fire chiefs must have five continuous years of service with the department, unless the administration is given a waiver from the City Council.
Brown also announced Wednesday that Roger Johnson will serve as Allmon’s emergency management consultant. He will assist Allmon with disaster planning and management.
Johnson served more than 35 years as a Columbus firefighter, including a time as chief of the Columbus Township Fire Department. He also is a former Indiana state fire marshal and is the current president of the Indiana Firefighters Association.
“Roger is keenly aware of hazards and threats our community faces, be they weather-related or man-made events such as hazardous material emergencies,” Brown said in the news release.
Brown said Johnson would serve as a part-time consultant. She said in the release that the personnel changes will not result in any increase in expenditures to the current city budget.
Telephone requests for additional comments left Wednesday afternoon for Thacker and Allmon were not returned prior to deadline.
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