Fire Chief Named to Top Post in Florida

The fire chief of Bradenton is taking on another role: president of the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association.

Mark Souders was expected to be sworn in as Bradenton's first association president during a ceremony Wednesday night at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach. In Souders, the association gets its first-ever president from an accredited fire department. Only nine fire departments in the state are accredited, said Deputy Fire Chief David Ezell, of the Bradenton Fire Department.

"We were definitely proud of him," Ezell said, describing the department's reaction upon learning of Souders' election. "He asked permission from the department several years ago to get active with this because it would require a lot of his time."

Ezell said that the entire department supported Souders' decision to become involved with the association. He called Souders' election to the top post "a long time coming."

Souders asked Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston to swear him in. From his cellular phone while driving to St. Pete Beach, Poston called the position an honor for Souders and Bradenton.

"That's what you hope for," Poston said. "For people to rise to the top of their professions. We're real pleased about it."

Poston acknowledged that Souders' new position means more work. But this gives Ezell and Chuck Edwards, the department's other deputy fire chief, an opportunity to take even greater leadership positions within the department, Poston said.

"It will test their mettle," he said.

According to the association Web site at ffca.org, the association "is Florida's leading management education organization for fire and emergency services professionals . . . that specializes in promoting and supporting excellence in fire and emergency services management. FFCA programs help members maintain and develop their management and leadership skills."

The association's mission statement is to advance "the profession of fire and emergency services through proactive leadership, education and advocacy," according to the Web site.

The city hired Souders as its fire chief in January 1997 to replace the retiring Jim Hackle. Previously, Souders worked at the Cedar Hammock Fire District as a firefighter from 1978-82, a fire inspector from 1982-87 and then fire marshal. From 1989-91 he served as Cedar Hammock's assistant fire chief before taking over the deputy fire chief position.

Souders could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Distributed by the Associated Press

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