Under his watch, the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department attained an Insurance Service Office rating of one and improved the organization’s budgeting practices, but Chief Mark Sealy is still hesitant to take too much of the credit, even as he plans his retirement.
“That is 100 percent a team effort,” Sealy said of the ISO rating. “It took (Mobile Area Water and Sewer System), it took crews in the field doing inspection; it took hours and hours of paperwork. All I did was just direct traffic.”
When it came to getting the department’s financial house in order, Sealy credited his Chief of Staff Jeremy Lami, whom he called a “genius” with the budget.
“He could be working other places, but he has a servants’ heart,” Sealy said. “He’d rather do this with less money than go somewhere else. He’s a magician. He can find money anywhere and knows what cuts need to be made.”
Sealy also thanked Mayor Sandy Stimpson and members of the Mobile City Council for the support since he’s been in office and specifically for greenlighting an increase in funding, which has allowed the department to purchase new vehicles. The support at city hall helped MFRD purchase 10 new frontline engines and ladder trucks as well as upgrade its ambulances.
“The mayor and the City Council have been so supportive,” he said.
Sealy will retire from MFRD on Friday, Aug. 28 and hopes the department will continue the work that’s been done to protect the health and safety of firefighters after he’s gone. He was instrumental in implementing annual health and cancer screenings for MFRD personnel.
“It’s a stressful job and we need to continue to help them deal with the stress,” Sealy said. “We need to keep pouring back into our people.”
In addition to the health and wellness of firefighters, Sealy said he also hopes the department can continue to increase pay for its members.
In a statement, Stimpson thanked Sealy for his three decades of service and wished him well.
“Under his tenure as chief, the department is stronger, morale is higher and our citizens are safer,” Stimpson wrote. “The proof of this is in the ISO-1 rating achieved under his leadership. He leaves a great legacy with the men and women of Mobile Fire-Rescue Department.”
Stimpson said the administration would look to hire the new chief from within the organization, if possible. The goal of the search is to hire the “best fire chief in America,” though the city has yet to set any kind of timeline for finding Sealy’s replacement.
If it were up to him, Sealy said he hopes the administration would promote Lami to his position once he leaves next month.
“He helped me draw the roadmap,” Sealy said of his chief of staff. “He drew the blueprint for it.”
Sealy began his career as a fire medic in 1991, after a career in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I wanted to work when I got out and friends told me it was a semi-military organization and I liked that,” Sealy said of the department. “I didn’t know much about it.”
He said the job taught him that there’s “something special about firefighters.
“They are selfless people who put others before themselves,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding career.
Sealy said he also enjoys the “inconsistency of the job.” It requires the person to be an “expert in three minutes.”
“Every call is different,” he said. “Every situation is different and challenges you in a different way.”
According to the city, Sealy worked his way up to take position as the district chief over training, where he helped influence and shape the culture of MFRD through various recruiting classes.
He was appointed fire chief by Stimpson in 2017.
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