Edwards Chosen As City's Permanent Fire Chief
The interim chief will take over for the late Mark Souders in leading the Bradenton Fire Department.
Chuck Edwards is Bradenton's new fire chief.
Edwards, the Bradenton Fire Department's interim chief, was promoted to the job permanently Wednesday night after winning unanimous approval from the City Council.
Edwards, who previously served as deputy chief of operations, replaces Mark Souders, who died Jan. 5 of an apparent heart attack at age 55. Souders had been the city's fire chief since 1997.
Edwards, 48, said the circumstances of his promotion were "unfortunate" but that the job of fire chief was something he's been working toward in his 22 years with the department.
"I always envisioned Chief Souders would retire from the job," Edwards said. "Nobody would ever guess this."
Edwards was chosen for the job over Deputy Chief of Operations Dave Ezell. Several council members said it was a tough decision.
"We are very lucky to have two able candidates," Councilman Patrick Roff said. "We're a lucky city to have a staff like this."
Mayor Wayne Poston called Edwards immediately after the council's 5-0 vote.
"I never heard a fire chief giggle before," Poston said.
The mayor also said he spoke with Ezell, who was "disappointed, but he also said he's 100 percent behind Chuck."
Councilman Gene Gallo, himself a former Bradenton fire chief, said after interviewing both men he was confident there would be no hard feelings and a smooth transition no matter who got the job.
"Me and Dave have got a real good working relationship," Edwards said. "If this thing would've gone the other way, I would have been there for him."
Edwards is expected to meet with council members Thursday and begin his new job. His salary has not been finalized, but City Clerk Carl Callahan said Souders was earning about $113,000 a year as fire chief.
Edwards, a Bradenton native and Manatee High graduate, attended Manatee Community College and the University of Florida. He joined the Bradenton Fire Department as a firefighter in 1988 and rose through the ranks before Souders promoted him to deputy chief in 2004.
"Chief Souders had a real good vision and a real good direction for the department," Edwards said. "Nothing's broke. I just want to keep it going."