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Connell: County plans careful search for new fire chief
Former chief resigned in October amid turbulent times in department
Jock Connell 2017.jpg
Jock Connell

Hall County administrator Jock Connell said he is trying to learn the lay of the land before pursuing a formal search for the next Hall County Fire Services chief. He said he has conducted numerous interviews with staff, county officials and firefighters. 

“I highly suspect within the next 30-40 days we will probably start that process,” Connell said about a formal search to replace Jeff Hood, who resigned Oct. 31.

Connell said he has more interviews with firefighters in the coming week as he continues gathering as much input as he can.

“I’ve just been listening to a lot of folks in the fire department,” he said. “I’ve made myself available to listen to people, hear their concerns, get their input, their thoughts and their perspective on what’s going on.”

Hood resigned about the same time former Fire Chief David Kimbrell was fired from his job leading the Emergency Management Agency following the discovery of videos of sexual improprieties between Kimbrell and subordinates in the fire department.

Kimbrell had been relieved of command of the fire department in August 2014 following a training incident at Allen Creek Training Center. Three firefighters were injured when the bucket on a ladder truck fell more than 40 feet. The department that owned the ladder truck before Hall County had noted previous mechanical problems.

Kimbrell was replaced by Hood.

In an investigative report released earlier this month in an open records request, Hood told authorities he believed he was under surveillance at his home and in his county vehicle. A former arson investigator then told the Hall County Sheriff’s Office he had fabricated the story “to impress and garner favor with the chief.” 

Connell would not elaborate on what concerns have been mentioned by fire department personnel, saying he promised confidentiality to those who spoke with him.

“I wanted to make sure that I fully understand as much as I can on all the issues that were out there that people had concerns about, realizing that not every issue that’s voiced has validity. But every issue is a concern of somebody, or I’ve got to assume they wouldn’t have said it,” Connell said.

Hood’s deputy chief Mark Arnold has served as interim chief for the past six months.

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