Public safety has dominated Mayor-elect Sandy Stimpson’s vision for Mobile, and it was front and center at the Oct. 25 press conference when he announced his appointments for Mobile Fire and Police chiefs.
Stimpson tapped Jim Barber for the police chief and Randy Smith for the fire chief pending City Council approval.
“Today we take a significant step in continuing to build my administration’s leadership team. The top priority of me being elected mayor was to find the best possible chief of police and fire chief,” Stimpson said. “During the campaign, I spoke of going on a national search to find a chief of police. What we found out before conducting that search was that we had the best possible chief here in Mobile already. That is Jim Barber. At the same time, I think the best chief for the fire and rescue department was here also and that is Randy Smith.”
Stimpson will have a national search to find a Public Safety Executive Director position, which will be over police and fire.
Smith and Barber are replacing Fire Chief Stephen Dean and Police Chief Micheal Williams, who are both retiring.
Smith is a native of Mobile and has been with the department since 1987. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a master’s in Emergency Management fro Jacksonville State University.
With a career already stretching back 26 years, Stimpson said Smith has been training for his new role as fire chief all along.
“Deputy Chief Smith has prepared for 26 years for this position. I am confident that he has the right experience, education and leadership skills that the department needs at this time,” Stimpson said “Randy has my complete trust and confidence. He also has a plan and a vision of what is required to make the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department part of a city structure that delivers superior services our citizens.”
Smith remembered how he first became interested in the fire department, and it happened on the same streets he now protects.
“Community service has always been a family business for mine. My father retired as a city clerk for the city of Mobile after 30 years of service in 1994. He always told me to follow my dreams. When I was a young child, I remember watching Engine 18 on Forest Hill Drive come up the street and dream one day about how I would be a firefighter,” Smith said. “I’m honored to serve in the company of such dedicated men and women in the Fire-Rescue Department.
“Our mission will be to continue to provide the highest quality services and care to the citizens of Mobile, visitors and the businesses.”
When current Chief of Police Micheal Williams left office early due to surgery, Barber was the officer put in charge. With Stimpson’s appointment, it looks like the deputy chief can get more comfortable in his role as chief.
Barber began his professional career as a U.S. Marine and joined the Mobile Police Department in 1988. He has been a chief deputy since 2006.
The new police chief earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a master’s degree in public administration from Troy University. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of South Alabama.
Stimpson selected Barber to be chief of police because of his vision for the department.
“Deputy Chief Barber has served the Mobile Police Department with distinction for 25 years. It is now his time to lead the department and help make Mobile the safest city in America. He has the experience, vision and respect of his fellow officers. He also has a plan that will transform the department into the finest law enforcement entity in Alabama and along the Gulf Coast,” Stimpson said. “Jim recognizes where the Mobile Police Department needs to be and what is required to get there.”
Barber called for Mobile not to compare itself against the cities with the worst crime rates, but to hold itself to a higher standard.
“I can think of no greater honor than to be entrusted with the fundamental duty to ensure the safety of the public. It is a duty I do not take lightly, but rather with steadfast determination. I will serve this city with honor, with integrity and with transparency,” he said. “For 25 years I’ve watched as we compare the city of Mobile’s crime rate with the 10 worst cities in America. No longer will we compare the crime rate for the city of Mobile to the 10 worst cities in America. We will measure our success against the 10 safest cities in America until such time the city of Mobile is the safest city in America.
“I will accomplish that goal by the year 2020 with the help of the other city administration. That is my mandate from the mayor-elect and that is now the mission of the Mobile Police Department. It is my promise to the citizens of Mobile and failure is not an option.”
With the announcement of Barber as police chief, this marks the fourth Stimpson appointee who lives in Baldwin County. Of Stimpson’s six appointments, Chief of Staff Colby Cooper, Communication Director George Talbot, City Attorney Ricardo Woods and Chief of Police Barber live in the neighboring county.
Stimpson addressed the living locations for some members of his staff, saying Barber would be moving to the city of Mobile “within a year, ” as it is MPD policy for the chief to live in the city.
The loss of population from the city of Mobile to Baldwin County and of people working in Mobile, but living in one of the cities across the bay was constant in the mayoral election debates between Stimpson and Mayor Sam Jones.
The other members of the executive staff will not be required to move to the city they now serve, Stimpson said.
“The other (members of the administration), that’s where they were living when we sought them out, and I think it’s their choice of where they live,” he said. “Obviously we want to make Mobile the place where they would want to live here instead of there.”