Fire chief candidates tour city, interview with city officials

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The top candidates for City of Charleston fire chief, three men and one woman, are in town for a tour and interviews. Former Chief Thomas Carr retired last year after complications from Parkinson's disease diagnosis.

This person would take over a department that is in the middle of an accreditation process, has been implementing changes since the 2007 Sofa Super Store tragedy, and responsible for leading fire crews on the peninsula, West Ashley, James Island, Johns Island, and Daniel Island.

Paul Berardi is a deputy fire chief from Kansas City, Missouri. He has 26 years of experience.

"I want this position because I've prepared to be a fire chief in a city. Charleston is a beautiful city. I can't imagine anybody not wanting to come to Charleston," Berardi said.

Richard Brannon is a deputy chief from the Mobile Fire-Rescue team in Alabama. He has 33 years of experience. "I was a finalist for the position in '08. I saw Chief Carr got ill and they opened it back up. My wife and I talked about it and prayed about it and said let's reapply and see what happens. I'm fortunate enough to be one of the four finalists," Brannon said.

Karen Brack is deputy chief of operations in the Eugene Fire Department in Oregon. She has 29 years of experience.

"I bring a lot to the table for the city of Charleston. I have 30 years of experience. I came originally from the metropolitan Atlanta area, and I am a southern girl who grew up in Savannah, GA. I'm looking to get back to the southeastern United States," Brack said.

Edwin Smith is a fire chief in the County of Henrico, Virginia. He has 35 years of experience.

"I look at the Charleston Fire Department as a very intriguing and growing department that has some unique challenges in front of it, where they're looking for national accreditation. I come from an agency that's accredited, and I think I have something to offer," Smith said.

These four finalists were narrowed down from a pool of more than 60. Monday they toured the city and got to know the crews at various stations.

Mayor Joe Riley makes the final decision and says this decision is one of the hardest decisions he has to make. His choice has to be confirmed by city council.

Tuesday Mayor Riley will interview the final four. The candidates will also interview with the public safety committee and a panel of city department heads and consultants. No word yet on when the final decision will be made.

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