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City hires new fire chief

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

City Manager Steve Horton announced Monday night that he has appointed John J. McNeil as the city's new fire chief.

McNeil is a retired deputy fire chief with Atlanta Fire Rescue and former director of Rockdale County Emergency Services Department and has 30 years of experience in the field.

He was one of three finalists that included David Carter, deputy fire chief and fire marshal for the Covington Fire Department, and Winston D. Williams, retired deputy district chief with the Chicago Fire Department. He expected to assume his duties in June.

"I'm excited about it and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens of Newton County and the city of Covington," McNeil said Tuesday. "I've heard a lot of positives about the Covington Fire Department, and I'm looking forward to taking it to the next level and bringing some fresh ideas and hopefully getting to work as a team with all the firefighters and the citizens and the City Council."

Horton's appointment was based on the recommendation of a selection committee. Horton, Human Resources Director Ronnie Cowan, current Fire Chief Don Floyd and Police Chief and Public Safety Director Stacey Cotton conducted the first round of interviews and narrowed the candidate pool to four finalists. One dropped out prior to the second round of interviews, which were conducted by Cowan, Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield and Willie Davis, the city's recruitment and retention director.

"We were all very impressed with (McNeil) and what we believe he can bring to the city of Covington," Horton said.

Cowan said the candidates were all "very well qualified individuals."

"It's always difficult to go outside the fire department to look at other people," he said.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman asked if McNeil, who lives in DeKalb County, plans to move to Covington. Horton said the city can't legally mandate a fire chief's residence.

McNeil said he does not have plans to move given the current housing market.

McNeil retired from the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department after 27 years. He served as deputy fire chief for the Technical Services Division from 2005 to 2007 and is the past chairman of the board of directors for Atlanta Fire Foundation Inc. He also served as director of Rockdale County's Emergency Services Department from 2009 to 2010. His position was eliminated due to budget cuts.

Fire Chief Don Floyd announced his retirement earlier this year. Floyd's last day on the job will be June 15, although officially, his last date of employment will be Dec. 31. Horton said he hopes McNeil will come on board prior to Floyd's last day so the chief can assist with the transition.