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McNeil hired as Covington fire chief
Bike race to come to city in July
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Covington's next fire chief will be John J. McNeil, who spent 28 years with the Atlanta Fire-Rescue Department.

City Manager Steve Horton chose McNeil out of three finalists based on interviews and the recommendations of staff.

"John is obviously highly qualified...we were all very impressed with him and what we believed that he can bring to the city of Covington to capture where we are and take us further down the road in fire services and public safety," Horton told the Covington City Council Monday.

McNeil has more than 30 years experience and worked his way up through the Atlanta department, including a two-year stint as deputy fire chief of the technical services division. He also worked 17 months as director of Rockdale County's emergency services department. That position was eliminated during the county's budget cuts a year after it was created.

"Covington's fire department has a very good reputation in the fire service world and so I saw it as a great opportunity," McNeil said Tuesday. "This job is all about interacting with people and I got a very positive feel working with all of the interviewers and staff at the city of Covington."

McNeil said part of the reason he retired from the Atlanta department was to have the opportunity to become a fire chief. He pursued a master's degree in leadership from Southwestern College in Kansas to make himself a more attractive candidate.

Chief Don Floyd announced his retirement earlier this year and will leave office June 15. McNeil said he would take over about June 16.

McNeil is a private consultant with Conyers-based Rhodes Consultants, but said he would not continue employment there.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman asked if McNeil would move to Newton County from DeKalb County, but Horton said that is not required under the city's ordinances. McNeil said Tuesday he will be staying in DeKalb because it would be difficult to sell his house in the current market.

McNeil was selected over two other finalists, Winston D. Williams who spent 30 years with the Chicago Fire Department, and in-house candidate Covington Fire Marshal David Carter, who has 24 years of experience.

Floyd, Horton, Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan, Police Chief Stacey Cotton, Capt. Willie Davis and Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield all interviewed candidates.

Bike race coming to Covington

Newton County could be seeing four days of bicycle racing in late July, after being lobbied by the Georgia Cycling Grand Prix.

The council vote 4-2 to allow a series of bike races to take place in downtown Covington from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 23. Councilmen Keith Dalton and Chris Smith voted against the racing event.

The race began in 2007 and was formerly known as Gwinnett Bike Fest. It will take place from July 20 through July 24 this year. Organizer Pete Sherrard is hoping to also schedule three days of racing in Newton County. He said more than 500 riders generally participate in the week of events.

Sherrard said the event would be a tourism boost and that he would do what he could to promote Covington businesses to riders and spectators.

Police department gets vehicles

The council unanimously approved the purchase of four 2011 Ford Crown Victorias and four Ford Expeditions for the Covington Police Department at a cost of $197,934. Seized drug funds will be used for the purchase.

Akins Ford in Winder won the car bid, while Covington Ford won the SUV bid.

The four cars will be used to increase patrols, while the SUVs will be used daily by Chief Cotton and his three captains and will be equipped to serve as mobile command posts when needed.