Jeremy Lami grew up with the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department (MFRD) and now he’ll be leading it.
The Mobile City Council unanimously approved Lami as chief of the department at its Tuesday meeting. He replaces Mark Sealy, who retired to officially helm the Gulf Shores Fire Department.
“I love this department,” Lami said. “Few people know this, but my father was a Mobile firefighter. He retired a few years ago after 30 years in the department. I love this place more than words can describe.”
As a condition of the council taking up Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s nomination despite council rules, Lami had to assure Councilman Fred Richardson he and his wife, Jessica, would move from Fairhope to Mobile.
Lami has more than 15 years of experience within the department and is a graduate of the National Fire Academy, Stimpson said in speaking to councilors about his choice.
“There are only about 60 graduates of the National Fire Academy active around the country,” Stimpson said.
Lami said his top focus as chief would be to make sure the department’s firefighters are properly cared for and given the equipment they need to do their jobs. Having helped Sealy and the department achieve the highest rating of 1 from the Insurance Service Office, Lami is looking to get MFRD nationally accredited. While close to 400 departments across the country have an ISO-1 rating, only about 50 have the highest ISO rating and national accreditation, Stimpson said.
“We’ve started it,” Lami said. “It’s a couple-year process.”
Stimpson said Lami impressed the panel responsible for recommending a new fire chief in 2017. Although Stimpson ultimately chose Sealy for the position, he knew Lami would be the heir apparent.
“What we thought back then is happening, perhaps sooner than we thought,” Stimpson said. “He’s going to pull his team together and make sure the citizens of Mobile have the very best fire protection.”
Taking Lami’s role as chief of staff will be former Deputy Chief of Support Johnny Morris.
In other business, the Mobile City Council will go back to virtual meetings starting next week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Council President Levon Manzie announced to a bit of confusion from colleagues.
Manzie announced a majority of councilors had agreed to meet remotely, but Councilwoman Gina Gregory quickly said she hadn’t been asked. Gregory raised concerns over public hearings scheduled for next month.
“It’s already the middle of August,” she said. “Are we going to have Zoom meetings for two weeks and then come back?”
Gregory agreed to the remote meetings “if it was what everyone wanted to do.” Councilman Joel Daves said he’d “prefer” to meet in person.
Rich suggested councilors provide numbers on the rate of infection or invite Mobile County Health Department personnel to a meeting to explain it to residents.
“This will get people’s radar up that we have inside information and we really don’t,” Rich said of moving to virtual meetings.
Manzie said last week he wasn’t concerned about the mixed messages moving back to virtual meetings might cause.
“The numbers are rising every day,” he said of new COVID-19 cases. “The curve ain’t flattening. We’re now worse off than we were when the shutdown happened.”
In comments to councilors on Tuesday, Stimpson said the number of new cases has fallen in Mobile County over the last two weeks.
Stimpson also honored outgoing Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs George Talbot, whose last day with the city is Friday. Stimpson joked Talbot’s position really should have been fire chief.
“You guys put out a few fires per week,” Stimpson said, with a nod to the contingent of firefighters in the audience. “George put out fires every day.”
The council also appointed Raymond Bell to the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System Board.
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