Interim fire chief Kevin O’Brien has been appointed as the new permanent fire chief for Newton County Fire Service.
County manager John Middleton made the announcement that O’Brien would take on the position at the Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night.
Middleton said O’Brien has been serving as interim fire chief for NCFS since May. Chief Mike Satterfield, who previously served as the fire chief for NCFS, announced his retirement in late April and officially retired from NCFS in June.
O’Brien started with fire services in 1993 as a volunteer for the Salem Volunteer Fire Department. He worked for the DeKalb County Fire Department as a firefighter and rose through the ranks to a battalion chief and a training director. He then began working with NCFS in September 2007.
He holds a bachelor's degree from Georgia Southern University and is currently working on his master's in public administration. In October, he finished a four-year certification process as an executive fire officer through the National Fire Academy.
O'Brien talked about his transition into his new role and said it's been pretty easy being that he had training and guidance prior to Satterfield retiring.
"For the last year and a half or so, Chief Satterfield, prior to his retirement, had sort of kind of already turn over the reign of the department to me on a day to day operations and let me run everything," O'Brien said. "It was nice to have someone to provide me some backup and support."
"The elected officials and the county manager have been great in their support of the fire department in trying to get us back to where we were and moving in the right direction," he said.
Middleton said O'Brien holds multiple certifications and has already set goals as the new fire chief for the county. O'Brien explained some of those goals for the department.
"Two of my biggest things are community outreach and education about who we are and what services Newton County Fire Department provides," he said.
"I want to work on our training program for the career side on the officer development and just the general development of our firefighters from the rank of firefighter to engineer to officer; but mostly focusing on the officer development side because we have a very young group of officers," O'Brien said.
"And also to enhance and improve the training programs for the volunteers. Putting some, what I call credentialing programs, in place for them, where they have set objects that they must meet to be qualified to operate as firefighters within our system."
"This is so they're just not kind of walking in the door and doing what they want to do, but credentialing them to a state standard and establishing a better success rate for what they want to do."
"And then of course managing a different budget than we have dealt with before. That's a monster in everybody's face," O'Brien said.
Middleton previously said the board believes O'Brien 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.
"We appreciate his acceptance of this role."