Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TOP STORY>Sherwood selects a full-time fire chief from Memphis

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Just four years ago, he was suspended and fired from the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department, but on Tuesday night, David Teague was approved by a 3-to-1 vote as the new chief of the 65-man, three-station Sherwood Fire Department.

The current chief, Frank Hill, will stay on, according to the fire board commissioners, until July 11 with full powers. On that date, Teague will take over and Hill will be given a severance package of about $25,000 and leave the department.

Teague is working now as a battalion chief with the Memphis Fire Department and operates two roofing-related businesses in Jacksonville.
Commissioner Mike Anderson said the board will negotiate a contract with Teague in the upcoming weeks and that the new chief’s salary will be about $60,000.

Commissioner Tom Brooks made the motion to “tender an offer of employment to David Teague as full time fire chief of the Sherwood Fire Department.” This was after the five-member board spent about an hour working on the department’s 2009 budget and after turning down a motion by Commissioner Karen Jacob to keep Hill as chief through 2009.

The board has spent the last two months looking to replace the part-time chief with a full time person. Hill averages 30 to 40 hours a week with the department, but the 27-year veteran has also been a longtime employee of Fidelity Information Services.

He could not afford to give up the salary and benefits of that job for the extra amount being added to his fire chief salary to make it a full-time position. Because the board has made it clear that it doesn’t want the fire chief to have an additional job, Teague will have to give up his local businesses.

Teague, who started with the Memphis Fire Department in 1990, served as a member of the South Bend Fire Department from 1978 to 2001. In his resume, he says that he “rose to rank of assistant fire chief responsible for the day to day operations of the department.”

What was not mentioned in the resume was his controversial de-parture from that department. Fire Chief Wes Harris fired Teague after the South Bend board split 2-2 on the issue. In a letter to Teague that was passed on to the board during the firing meeting, Harris wrote, “You will never be a team player.”

Teague had been the assistant chief until his brother was fired as chief in August 2000. Teague took over but in October had to go to court over a misdemeanor charge of obstructing governmental operations after getting into a scuffle with a fire board commissioner. Teague was suspended in October 2000, and then fired in February 2001.

Teague was one of four applicants the Sherwood board interviewed Thursday. Three of the ap-plicants were on the agenda, culled from eight candidates at the previous meeting. The fourth candidate was called in at the request of Commission Chairman Michael Dupstaff.

At the Thursday meeting, after interviewing Teague, Phillip Flynn, a former North Little Rock firefighter and a full-time lieutenant with the Sherwood Fire Department; and Andy Traffanstedt, the Gavel Ridge fire chief and a part-time captain with the Sherwood department, another applicant, Alan Ford, was called into the board’s executive session.

Soon after Ford’s interview, the board reconvened in public and with no fanfare said it would meet again Tuesday at the fire station to discuss the 2009 budget and any decision it makes regarding hiring a full-time chief. The board then adjoined.
The meeting location was then changed without notifying the press to the Sherwood City Council chambers.

Commissioners said they would contact Teague to let him know that he was their pick and invite him to the board’s meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the council chambers. “I’m sure he’ll want to have a meeting with the firefighters as soon as possible,” Anderson said.

Brooks said Teague would be paid about $30,000 for this year, plus be paid for any time he spends shadowing or working with Hill and the department prior to the July 11 takeover date.

Earlier, Alderman Butch Davis tried to talk to Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, who appoints the fire board commissioners, to ask him to have the board halt the search for 30 to 60 days to allow everyone to calm down, but Villines was out of town.

“This whole thing is just snowballing out of control,” Davis said.

He was also concerned about who the board is supposed to represent. “If it’s the people of Sherwood, they aren’t listening,” Davis said.

The Fire Department, which encompasses all of Sherwood, is not a municipal fire department but a fire protection district department under the control of the county judge and the five-member board. The board members are appointed by the judge without any city input.

In his resume cover letter, Teague says his background and education in emergency services has prepared him to lead the Sherwood department. As a battalion chief in Memphis, he is in a mid-level management position in a department that includes 1,700 people and 59 stations.

Teague has served as the director of emergency medical services for Cleburne Memorial Hospital in Heber Springs and spent 23 years with the Southbend Volunteer Fire Department in Lonoke County. He also owns and operates Klad Co., a consulting and inspection firm for large roofing systems, and David Teague Roofing Co., both in Jacksonville.