COVINGTON, Ga. – Covington fire Chief Stoney Bowles is stepping down from his position at the end of the month. His last day on the job will be June 30.
Bowles, a Cobb County native and retired Cobb firefighter, and his wife moved to Covington after he was named the city’s fire chief in March 2015. He told The Covington News leaving isn’t easy.
“This is a great is a great place to be. This is a great city,” he said. “We’ve got a great city manager. Our leadership is really good. We’ve got a really good fire department."
Bowles said in the end, family considerations won out. He said his wife was ready to go home.
“Everybody is still there. Our two adult children, their spouses, my mother-in-law, my two sisters-in-law, our church, which means a lot to us. A lot of friends and family over there,” he said.
“As I told the city manager and the mayor, it means a lot for other people in my life to be happy but it means nothing to me unless my wife is happy.”
Bowles said he and his wife have already sold their home here and moved back west. The career firefighter said for the last year or so he has been rising at 3:43 a.m. to make the commute to Covington.
“That’s a significant number, 343,” he said. “It’s the number of firefighters lost on Sept. 11, 2001. I get up at 3:43 for that reason.”
Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said Bowles tendered his resignation May 30. He spent the next three days breaking the news to his department’s three shifts.
“I got to meet with all three of them Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That’s tough, leaving, “he said.
Bowles said he hopes Covington firefighters are included in the search for his replacement.
“I would love to see them give an opportunity to somebody in the department,” he said. “I think we’ve got some really good talent inside the department who could easily fill the shoes and they would probably set up the fire chief position for the next 15 plus years and bring a lot of stability.
“I would really pull for an inside person on that one.”
A firefighter since 1984, Bowles said he isn’t sure what’s next.
“I would like to stay in the fire service, but it’s not a necessity,” he said. “I’ll be 54 next month so getting back on a fire truck, I don’t know so much about that - maybe in an administrative role.
“Being a firefighter, it’s kind of like Lou Holtz said about Notre Dame. If you’ve never been, there’s nothing I can tell you that will explain it. If you’ve been there, you know there’s nothing else that can replace it. That’s kind of like being a firefighter. There’s really nothing you can tell people that will help them understand it, but once you’ve done it, you just know there’s nothing else like it.”
Bowles is proud of the caliber of firefighters protecting the citizens of Covington.
“We have people in this department, they would be successful in Atlanta, DeKalb, Gwinnett, LA, Chicago, I don’t care where you put them,” he said. “They may talk a little different than the people in LA or Chicago but they would be a huge success there.”
Asked what he will miss most, Bowles said the people and the community.
“There are over 300 employees with the City of Covington. We have great employees throughout the city, not just in the fire department” he said. “These guys here, obviously, I’m really close to. I’m going to miss them a lot.
“I’m just going to miss it. It’ll be tough. It’s been tough already, just talking to the guys last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
As for what’s next, Bowles said, “Whatever’s over there, west of here, I’m excited about it."
He added that he could eventually wind up back in the fire service.
“If the Lord presents that opportunity,” he said. “Then we’ll see.”