City Council Appoints Edwards As Interim Fire Chief
Bradenton Fire Department's deputy chief of operations will take over for late Mark Souders until permanent chief is chosen.
The Bradenton City Council appointed Chuck Edwards as interim fire chief Thursday, and members said they hope to move quickly in making a decision on who will lead the city's fire department permanently.
The council unanimously approved the appointment in a special meeting, tabbing Edwards, the department's deputy chief of operations, to fill in as chief until the city approves an official hire.
Edwards takes over for Fire Chief Mark Souders, who died Jan. 5 of an apparent heart attack.
The department had two deputy chiefs under Souders -- Edwards, who handled operations, and Dave Ezell, deputy chief of administration. Both men have already submitted their resumes for the fire chief position.
Councilman Gene Gallo motioned that Edwards be named interim chief, only because he has about three more years' experience with the department, joining in 1988.
Gallo, himself a former city fire chief, said he thought it was necssary to have one person in charge of the department, even if on an interim basis, to handle any administrative decisions that may be necessary.
"It's like having four hands on a steering wheel," Gallo said. "If an issue came up, two hands want to go right and two hands want to go left. It's not going to work. It's not good for the department, it's not good for the community."
Mayor Wayne Poston said he was opposed to naming an interim chief because both Edwards and Ezell would still be considered for the chief's post, and choosing one over the other now might cause factions within the department to take sides.
"I think we have two people that are very capable," Poston said. "I don't share Mr. Gallo's fear that you have to have somebody in charge or it's going to fall apart."
Gallo's motion was approved 5-0 by the council.
The council also voted to post the fire chief job description internally for the next 72 hours to identify any other potential candidates. The job is not expected to be listed outside the department, as several council members said they feel they already have at least two highly qualified candidates in Edwards and Ezell.
The council agreed to start the process of reviewing resumes immediately but did not set a definite timetable for when a decision on a permanent chief would be made.
Councilman Harold Byrd Jr., who serves as the council's liason to the fire department, called for the emergency meeting to consider appointing an interim chief.
"I just felt it was necessary for public safetey," Byrd said.
Edwards is a Bradenton native and graduate of Manatee High School. He attended both Manatee Community College and the University of Florida before rising through the ranks from firefighter to deputy chief.
Edwards is an active member of the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association, Manatee County Fire Chiefs' Association, Bradenton Fire Fighters Association, Manatee County Operations Committee and is a trustee for the Emergency Services Memorial Committee. He received the city's Excellence in Leadership Award in 2006.
Edwards, who was promoted to the rank of deputy chief by Souders in 2004, told Bradenton Patch a few weeks ago the late chief made a big impression on him.
"It really won't be the same without him," Edwards said. "His office door was always open. He had time for anybody who wanted to talk to him. He made an impact on a lot of people's lives."