Retired Adm. Richard Landolt defended himself and his job, weeks after several sources questioned what the director of public safety does for the city.
Landolt, who said he typically shies away from credit, told Lagniappe he initially was asked to work with the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department to help build leadership and strengthen diversity among the ranks.
Landolt said his first two recruiting classes resulted in 45 percent diversity.
“Everyone in the class came with a paramedic or firefighter certification, which saved the city money,” he said.
He also touted one of his first actions, naming Billy Pappas as interim fire chief. He and Pappas have worked to make the department more efficient, he said, starting with the purchase of new sprint vehicles to cut down on the cost of using larger firetrucks. Buying the smaller sport utility vehicles that can carry medical supplies made sense, he said, since 80 percent of the calls MFRD receives are medical in nature.
“We wanted to buy vehicles that were right for the city,” he said. “Mobile can be a hard city to travel with many service roads and speed bumps … ”
In addition, Landolt said he is still working to find the best locations for new fire stations, with one in the Spring Hill area possibly on the horizon. Landolt also took some of the credit for making personnel changes to the fire code department, following a number of complaints from local business owners. He also purchased new iPhones for the department.
The efficiencies Landolt claims to have found within the fire department have offset years where the budget outside of capital improvements remained flat. One efficiency, however, has put Landolt at odds with the local firefighters union. Union President DeWayne Patrick said having companies go to calls with one less firefighter, or “riding short,” is a safety concern he’d like to see addressed.
Landolt said when it comes to getting the right personnel in the right place, he’s “willing to take the risk.”
“No matter how much you spend, the risk will not go to zero,” he said.
Landolt added they have heard no complaints from residents about the personnel moves. City spokeswoman Laura Byrne said the administration works to put the right personnel at the scene of any call, whether they arrive on the same truck or not. She said the city doesn’t call it “riding short.”
Instead, Landolt said he hopes a new predictive software that uses historical data to put personnel in the right places can have an impact. The software would allow the city to “brown out” stations, or temporarily close them, at times when calls in a particular area aren’t expected to be heavy.
While his focus has been the MFRD, Landolt said his reach extends to other departments as well. He stays in contact with Mobile Police Chief James Barber and reports back to Stimpson on department-related matters, including any time an officer uses his or her weapon.
Landolt also oversees the city’s waterfront and helps to manage the Mobile, Alabama Cruise Terminal.
In addition, Landolt’s background in the Navy has helped the city secure several visits from Navy ships, crew and dignitaries. This includes the upcoming 2017 Navy Week Feb. 22-28. Activities that week will include visits from the crew of the USS Mason as well as the Navy parachute team, the Navy band and sailors from the USS Constitution.
Landolt’s Navy connection has also benefited Mobile and Austal with the littoral combat ship program. He said he even drafted the letter to the secretary of the Navy which helped get a ship named for the city.
Landolt is also Stimpson’s eyes and ears on several boards, include the Mobile County Communications District.