Florida Times Union

Mayor plans to create 2 Fire, Rescue positions


By Mary Kelli Palka
Times-Union staff writer

Mayor John Peyton plans to create two new appointed positions in the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and fill them with people instrumental in helping him become mayor.

New Fire and Rescue Director Richard Barrett has recommended firefighter/engineer Randy White to become assistant fire chief, and firefighter Larry Peterson to become chief of administrative services, Peyton said.

Barrett was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Until the City Council has a chance to consider a bill creating the new positions and their salaries, both men are serving as assistant management improvement officers, Peyton said.

During his campaign for mayor, Peyton visited every fire station in the city and told firefighters his plans to improve the city, which included providing them with better resources to do their jobs. Peyton took office July 1 and has proposed in his first budget a large-scale replacement of fire trucks.

During the campaign, White was president of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, which endorsed Peyton. Peterson took Peyton on his trips to the fire stations. But Peyton said that didn't have anything to do with the men's proposed new jobs.

"I think it's more about a track record of leadership," the mayor said.

White, who has been a firefighter in the city for 21 years, couldn't be reached for comment. But his successor in the union, Roger Lewis, said both appointments are positive moves.

"It'll give a different perspective, I believe, for the administration," Lewis said.

Lewis said he's confident the new administration will be more understanding of the people who fight fires and respond to other emergencies every day. The union wasn't on good terms with former Fire and Rescue Director Ray Alfred.

The position of chief of administrative services hasn't existed for several years, Peterson said.

"That's one of the reasons our [equipment and stations] has gotten into such bad shape because we haven't had someone directly over it," said Peterson, who has been a firefighter for 23 years.

Now Peterson, who used to own a construction company, will be responsible for researching what types of fire trucks and other equipment to purchase and reviewing the situations at the city's fire stations.

Staff writer Mary Kelli Palka can be reached at (904) 359-4104, or mary.palkajacksonville.com.