Members of the administration, City Council and the general public gathered Tuesday in Government Plaza’s ceremonial courtroom for something that hadn’t happened since Mayor Sandy Stimpson took office; the swearing-in ceremony for a Mobile Fire-Rescue Department chief.
Mark Sealy officially became chief Tuesday, after the department had gone nearly four years without a confirmed leader.
“It’s a new day and I’m looking forward to it … ,” Stimpson said. “ … I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
Sealy was selected after a weeks-long search where 13 local candidates — who each submitted a comprehensive plan for the department — were whittled down to five finalists. The five finalists were interviewed by a panel that included a local management consultant Dan Lumpkin, Montgomery Fire Chief Miford Jordan, Executive Director of Public Safety James Barber and Bloomberg I-Team Director and former EMS driver Jeff Carter.
Stimpson said Jordan was brought on to consult during the hiring process because his department in Montgomery had achieved an Insurance Service Office rating of 1, which is the highest possible score. Mobile Fire-Rescue Department’s current ISO score is 3.
“Montgomery set a new standard,” Stimpson said. “The aspiration is we want to be the very best …. “I am convinced we too will achieve a rating of 1.”
When he was initially asked to consult on the hiring, Barber said Jordan asked him what he should look for. Barber casually told him that with his experience he’d know. When Sealy walked out of the room as the last applicant to interview, Jordan said ‘there’s your fire chief,’ Barber said.
In addition to bringing Jordan in to consult, Mobile borrowed more from Montgomery’s department, including a similar command structure.
Three of the four candidates not chosen for chief were given new titles within the department, which mirrors Montgomery pretty closely. District Chief Doug Cooper as chief of operations, District Chief Jeremy Lami as chief of staff and Deputy Chief Myron King will assume the position of chief of support. The two remaining deputy chiefs will be retained, but the other deputy chief and assistant chief positions will not be filled.
Barber said the city looked at best practices in other fire departments as well, including in Auburn and Huntsville. City spokeswoman Laura Byrne confirmed Tuesday that Mobile was trying to mirror Montgomery’s command structure.
During remarks on Tuesday, Council President Gina Gregory called Sealy the “ideal person to lead the department” due to his experience in fire suppression and EMS, as well as his education.
Sealy was sworn in by retired Circuit Court Judge Charles Graddick.