There is still no timetable for confirmation of interim Fire Chief Randy Smith, who has served in that role since November.
The appointment of Richard Landolt as executive director of public safety opened speculation that Smith’s appointment may come up next, but the administration said Landolt will advise Mayor Sandy Stimpson on the right time to bring Smith up for confirmation.
“Chief Smith will be put up for confirmation at a time when the executive director of public safety recommends the action to the mayor and all and any questions the City Council has regarding the appointment have been addressed,” said Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper. “Until that time Landolt and Chief Smith will work closely together making the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department one of the finest in the country.”
City Councilman John Williams admitted he didn’t think Smith would be confirmed by the current council.
“Based on what I have experienced over the last 10 months, I don’t anticipate this council approving the nomination of Randy Smith,” he said.
Willams said he supports Smith, calling him “immensely qualified,” but doesn’t think he has enough support to garner the five votes needed for confirmation.
Williams said he, at first, believed a deal was struck between Stimpson and Councilman Fred Richardson when the mayor came out in support of the appointment of former Mayor Sam Jones to the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System Board.
Williams said a lack of support to nominate Smith was a “shame” and said he’s never voted against an administrative nomination while on council because the administration is responsible for the outcomes of those decisions.
“In my whole time on council I’ve never voted against an appointment or budget because they have to live with it,” he said.
Richardson has previously told Lagniappe that any speculation he’d vote against the confirmation of Smith was based on assumptions. Richardson added if and when Smith is added to the agenda, he can expect the same scrutiny as everyone else.
Richardson has also declined to comment on a 2006 reverse discrimination lawsuit Smith filed claiming the city discriminated against white employees within the MFRD at the urging of former Mayor Sam Jones and former Fire Chief Stephen Dean. Richardson was subpoenaed to testify as part of the lawsuit before it was settled. Richardson has previously said the lawsuit would have no bearing on the confirmation process.
Richardson also showed heightened interest last month in a one-vehicle accident involving Smith and his department-owned sport utility vehicle. Richardson sent an unusual email to Stimpson asking for details on the accident resulting in $1,900 worth of damage to the rear quarter panel of the vehicle.
Council President Gina Gregory said it’s up to the administration to bring Smith up for confirmation.
Stimpson wants Smith to get to know the council and community a little better before he’s put up for a confirmation vote, Gregory said.
“I don’t think the mayor would put him up until he’s sure to be approved,” she said.
Councilwoman Bess Rich said she too supports Smith as permanent chief and is ready to vote whenever the issue comes before the board.
“I agree with the mayor that he’s the right choice,” she said.
Rich added that she believes it’s in the best interest of the department to have a full-time chief.
Councilman Joel Daves also said the ball is in Stimpson’s court, but he didn’t feel like commenting until Smith was on the council agenda.
Councilman Levon Manzie called Smith a “committed member of the fire department,” who “has been an asset to the city as he has climbed the ranks,” but wouldn’t comment further until his name is on the agenda.
For his part, Smith is focused on being the acting chief of the department and not on a confirmation hearing, said department spokesman Steve Huffman.
“He’s not concerning himself with that because it’s not in his hands,” Huffman said. “At this time he is fire chief.”