Jacksonville Fla--Mayor Set to Replace Fire Chief
This story orignially surfaced several months ago when the city expressed discontent with it's Chief. I could not find the original thread. But I have to wonder...is this the same Ray Alfred we all know and love who hails originally from our Nations Capital???? Anyone with any insight?
Jacksonville Times Union
Fire chief not hurt by replacement
t Alfred says foes used Peyton to push agenda
By Tia Mitchell
Times-Union staff writer
Jacksonville Fire Chief Ray Alfred said yesterday he isn't taking it personally that Mayor-elect John Peyton plans to replace him, and he hopes to find another job just as meaningful in the Jacksonville area.
Alfred, who became the first black chief of the city's Fire and Rescue Department after being wooed out of retirement by Mayor John Delaney, said the decision to replace him has little to do with him at all.
"I expected Mr. Peyton, Mr. [Nat] Glover, any one of those [candidates] to be able to name their own cabinet members," Alfred said. He pointed out that most mayors choose their own fire chiefs, and the only thing Peyton told the local firefighters union was the next department head would come from within.
The 63-year-old fire chief said a vocal minority of his opponents used Peyton, who was endorsed by the firefighters, to push their agenda. He said this "core group" has vehemently opposed him, some because he is black and others because he came from outside the city.
Pointing to a dozen black roses delivered anonymously to his office, Alfred said those opponents are now gloating about Peyton's victory.
"I think that little core group used Mr. Peyton to further themselves," he said. "That little core group harbors the kind of hatred you see in those roses."
Larry Osborne, business agent for the union, said Alfred does have a group of people who oppose him, but from a union standpoint the most important concern was the next chief should already have ties with the rank-and-file.
"It was certainly less about Chief Alfred the man than it was about the issue," Osborne said.
Susie Wiles, spokeswoman for Peyton's transition, said the mayor-elect's wishes to choose his own fire chief were misconstrued as an attack on Alfred, partially because of mudslinging in the final weeks of the campaign. She said Peyton agreed with the union after seeing the talent pool within the department.
"The fact of the matter is John Peyton received the union endorsement because he visited every station multiple times and learned the issues that are important, the challenges that they face and the concerns that they have," Wiles said.
Though other candidates told the firefighters union they wanted to pick their own fire chief, Peyton was the only one to publicly say he would not consider Alfred. Ironically, Peyton was a member of a search committee that recommended Alfred, the former Washington fire chief, and another candidate to Delaney in 1995.
Wiles said Peyton has not ruled out using Alfred during the transition, and Alfred said he would serve if asked. A far as possible successors, Alfred won't get too specific.
"There are at least a couple of people who are capable of stepping up to the plate," he said.
The next fire chief doesn't have to be a minority, Alfred said, "but certainly they have to be sensitive to the issue of diversity and what that means."
Peyton will have announced the chair of the Fire and Rescue subcommittee early next week to analyze the department's needs and devise an application process for the administration, Wiles said.
Alfred said he would not accept a lesser role within the fire department and is looking for other job opportunities on the First Coast.
"I'm happy in Jacksonville; My family's happy in Jacksonville," Alfred said.
He said if he stays in Jacksonville, there may be a future ballot with his name on it.
"If I stayed here, I'd probably run for political office." he said. "That would be the ultimate in service delivery to the public, to the people."
Until he leaves as of July 1, Alfred said he still has a department with more than 1,100 employees to manage.
"I have to remain focused," Alfred said, adding he plans to ensure a smooth transition to the new fire chief. "I don't want to slip. I don't want to miss a lick."
Staff writer Tia Mitchell can be reached at (904) 359-4425 or tmitchelljacksonville.com.