COVINGTON, Ga. - The Covington Fire Department will now be led by one of its own after veteran firefighter Jeremy Holmes was named the city’s seventh fire chief this week. Holmes had served as interim chief for about two weeks following the departure of Stoney Bowles.
With 19 years of service to the city of Covington, Holmes rose through the ranks from relief driver to engineer to lieutenant to training officer to his most recent role as Chief of Training.
He said coming up through the ranks with CFD will benefit him as takes on his new role.
“Covington Fire Department’s most valuable resource is its firefighters,” he said. “And coming up through the department and knowing them and them knowing me, I think that’s the biggest thing. That they know my strengths- and my weaknesses- and they still support me and I still have their respect from a firefighter perspective.
“And because of that, that means more than any certification or degree I could have, or anything like that. To have their respect and their support, I’m proud of that.”
A Newton County native, Holmes said he didn’t grow up wanting to be a firefighter.
“Growing up I never went, ‘I’m going to be a fireman,’” he said. “I needed a job. I was out of high school college wasn’t working out too well. I needed a job.
“The police department was actually hiring – the Covington Police Department – and I said I’ll go apply there. And I did. And they said you’ll have to wait until you’re 21. We can put you behind a desk and when you turn 21 you can become a patrol officer.
“Then they said, ‘But the fire department is hiring and you only have to be 18.’ I said I’ll try it, and I did. Once I got in and got involved with the guys and saw the brotherhood and all of that, it’s just an environment that I love.”
Holmes said he’s not planning any immediate changes.
“I like the direction the department’s going in. Being involved in it for my whole career, I’ve been able to attend a lot of conferences and I’ve done a lot of promotional processes for other fire departments. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that and you learn a ton about how to operate things. But you also see a ton of things and you go, ‘Man, actually Covington’s got it going on,’” he said.
“There are always avenues for improvement, but we’ve also got a good job.”
Holmes said his focus will always be on the best way to provide the best service for the public.
“We’ve got accreditation coming at the end of this year. That’s a big deal and we’re really focused on that,” he said.
“How can we provide the very best service to our community with the resources that we have. In Covington, we have great equipment, we have great resources. And because of that, we are able to provide good service.”
Holmes, 38, is the married father of five. He completed his undergraduate degree in Public Safety Leadership at Mercer University in 2016 and is currently in his third year of law school at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta. He said there is a connection between firefighting and law.
“Last year, I was able to go to Congressional Fire Service Institute. I wrote an essay and I got a scholarship to cover the expenses,” he said, “It’s there in Washington, DC and they’re lobbying for different bills for fire departments. It could be the SAFER grants. It’s also the cancer bill and those things.
“I was able to do a lot of research on all of that and I was able to present for some senators and for representatives in Washington, DC. It was a side of the fire service I never knew existed. And to see that, I feel like there is a great bond between the legal services and the fire service.”
After Bowles announced his resignation last month, Covington city manager Leigh Anne Knight told The Covington News the city hoped to promote its next fire chief from within. In a statement Friday, she said Holmes is the right choice.
“I am extremely pleased with the selection of Jeremy Holmes as the Fire Chief for the City of Covington. Chief Holmes is a long time employee of the City and has the City, Firefighters and Community in his best interest. He brings stability and new ideas to the department. We made the decision to open the process to internal candidates and are thankful we were able to move quickly on a decision.”