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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Everett exits, Blanton is Salem's new Fire Chief

Friday, March 4, 2011

Councilwoman Betty Teague congratulates Nick Blanton, after the Salem City Council selected Blanton as the city's new fire chief. Long time Chief Heath Everett resigned on Feb. 23. A majority of firefighters recommended Blanton, a ten year fire department veteran, to fill the position. Photo by Richard Irby
Long time Salem Fire Chief Heath Everett resigned on Feb. 23, and the Salem City Council wasted no time filling the position.

Near the end of the council's Feb. 24 meeting, Mayor Gary Clayton announced that he had accepted Everett's resignation.

When asked why Everett had stepped down, the Mayor replied, "I think he just got tired of it and wanted out. He didn't give me any specific reason."

Everett is just three months away from having 20 years in with the department, which would qualify him for a state pension. Everett indicated he planned to stay on as a firefighter to earn that benefit.

The Mayor told council members an initial step toward choosing a new chief had already been taken.

"They (firefighters) wanted to prepare a ballot and pass among members to make a recommendation to the council on who the next chief is," Clayton told the council.

After explaining that the firefighter's vote was just a recommendation and not binding on the council, the Mayor proceeded to open envelopes in which ballots had been placed.

13 of 17 Salem firefighters submitted ballots and Nick Blanton, a 10-year department veteran who has been studying to fill the new position of training coordinator, received a majority of the votes.

Councilwoman Betty Teague made a motion that the council accept the firefighters' recommendation and Blanton was chosen as the new chief by a unanimous vote.

Blanton was among six firefighters who attended the council meeting.

When asked if he would accept the position, Blanton replied, "If that's what they want."

Blanton said he was willing to continue his training to serve as training officer, as well as fire chief. Blanton added, however, he would not accept the training officer's salary.

Under the recently approved 2011 budget, the fire chief is paid $8,215 a year. The new training officer is to receive $2,400 a year.

After the meeting, Blanton told The News his top priority, as chief, will be to make sure fire department trucks and equipment are in good condition and ready for use in an emergency.

Blanton believes the current staff of 17 firefighters and a chief is sufficient to handle fire and rescue calls, as well as operate the county's hazardous materials unit.

Blanton agreed with the Mayor that former chief Everett may just be ready for a change, after 20 years on the department.

"Heath has done a lot for the department over the years and his contributions are appreciated."

Blanton obtained his first firefighting experience in the Navy, serving three years on a fire crew on a ship.

Before becoming chief, Blanton served as a Lt. on the department.

As chief, he intends to work with firefighters to choose an assistant chief and two captains.

According to Blanton, "We've got good people and a good department."

In other city council business:

* The council voted to accept a Chamber of Commerce offer to take full ownership of the house in the Salem City Park.

The chamber will deed it's interest over to the city and the city will become responsible for all of the insurance and maintenance costs associated with the house.

* Public Works Director Bill Worsham announced the yearly city-wide cleanup will take place on Monday, March 21 through March 25.

* Salem resident Bob Denny expressed concern about the growing number of people in the city who keep livestock, mostly horses, in the city limits.

Denny claimed it is cruel to keep horses on a small lot with no shelter from the weather, as well as a danger to those who live near the horses, which often are not sufficiently fenced.

He asked the council to consider an ordinance to address the problem.

Police Chief Al Roork recently expressed similar concerns at another council meeting.

The next monthly meeting of the Salem City Council will be held a week earlier than usual, March 17 at 7 p.m.

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only the mayor can hire or fire a department head, the council does not

-- Posted by zapcom on Sun, Mar 6, 2011, at 8:53 PM

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