Posted January 25, 2014 10:21 am - Updated January 25, 2014 10:29 am

CFD Fire Chief search in final stage

The mayor and his search and interview committee for the Conway Fire Dept.'s next fire chief has its work cut out.

It was imperative from the beginning, back in June, when after 17 years of excellent service as chief, Bart Castleberry submitted his resignation, that this nationwide search find a chief that not only understands the needs and demands of the community but also has a vision for how the department needs to grow.

The next fire chief has to be a leader with a plan. It also doesn't hurt to have a few people at the stations on their team. I've been able go to the meet-n-greets and I've asked each one how they were received when they met with the rest of the department. (Not the ones in the offices and city hall, but the ones wearing the 70 lbs. of bulky protective gear working 48 hours straight in any Arkansas weather.)

One of the out-of-town candidates told me he'd loved meeting with the men at the stations. He really felt like he'd connected with them and understood them. (Keep in mind that Conway firefighters are polite to strangers.) When I followed up the next day with a friend at the department, I got an eyeroll and clear indication that Conway firefighters expect their next chief to be someone committed to Conway, not someone using the CFD as a step on his way up the ladder. (He may have come across as being *ahem* a little out of touch.)

To some of us, being the fire chief/CEO of the Conway Fire Department makes a career. To many of us, and to almost a hundred local firefighters, it's the top job on the career ladder.

The meet-n-greet for the final candidate, Conway's Assistant Fire Chief Mike Winter, is 5-6 p.m. Monday at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and the public is welcome.

Thanks to this committee for its great job of narrowing the pool of 27 applicants. They will make a final recommendation to the mayor and ultimately it's Mayor Townsell's decision.

So, let the committee and the mayor know if you have a strong opinion. Conway CFD has a history of hiring great men and keeping them for a long time, so let's get the person in here that you can support.

    • Mark Ledbetter — Conway city council member and retired Conway Fire Department Assistant Chief
    • Shelley Mehl — Conway city council member and VP of Advancement for UCA
    • Scotty Bell — VP/GM of Conway Virco plant
    • Rev. Cornell Maltbia — Pastor of True Holiness Saints Center and Conway Civil Service Commission member
    • Jerry Glover — Retiree and former Conway Civil Service commissioner
    • Joyce Hardin — Biology professor at Hendrix, also served as Dean of Students and VP of Student Affairs
    • Shelia Maxwell — Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management director
    • Carroll Bishop — Conway School District assistant superintendent
    • Eric Kindsfater — Conway Regional Health Services director of safety and security