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Interim fire chief could be full-time soon
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A temporary appointment may become a full-time position for the interim fire chief of Newton County Fire Service.

Chief Kevin O'Brien has been serving as the interim fire chief for the NCFS department since May. County manager John Middleton said the temporary appointment is serving as an evaluation and O'Brien could possibly take on the position full time.

Chief Mike Satterfield, who served as the fire chief for the department and has been working in the business for more than 30 years, announced his retirement in late April and officially retired from the department in June.

After Satterfield retired, the Newton County Board of Commissioners discussed their options for finding his replacement.

Middleton said the board considered doing an outside search, posting the position within the county or making a temporary appointment to fill the position. After their discussions, Middleton said the board decided to do a six to 12-month evaluation with O'Brien, who was already working under Satterfield as a deputy chief of operations.

"There's typically a six to 12 month period which is kind of a working test, which gives them the opportunity to try to evaluate," Middleton said. "It also gives the individual who's in the role the opportunity to see how that role is doing for them too."

Middleton said O'Brien will have a six-month evaluation and the board will review that evaluation around the end of October. He said although O'Brien is interim chief, the board believes he will carry on some of the same goals as the previous chief.

"I think that overall, the board was very pleased with the direction and the progress that the Newton County Fire Service made under Chief Satterfield and we certainly look to Chief O'Brien to provide that operational continuity and build on that foundation," Middleton said.

O'Brien, who Middleton said began working with the department in September 2007, said serving as the interim chief has been a transition.

"While I knew the department and I knew the workings, it's still been a transition going into a position where you're ultimately in control," he said. "I had a mentor in the business, Chief Satterfield, [who] I could go to and ask questions and ask guidance and with him being gone, it's a little bit more weight on my shoulders," he said.
"But I've had great support from the board and from the county manager about decision making and different things we are doing in trying to move the department forward. So far, I can't complain about a thing. It's been great," he said.

O'Brien said one of his main goals for the department was to raise awareness to the community about the department and bring light to all the programs they had to offer.

"We're moving a lot of programs forward and trying to get our department out in the public a little bit more, [with] more involvement in fire safety education and community outreach," he said. That's one of our big aspects. We've improved the volunteer programs and put some new programs in place to enhance our volunteers. I think you will see an improved level of service from them, which will benefit the citizens."