Meet your government
Every Monday The Times takes a look at someone who keeps local governments running smoothly.
Jerome Yarbrough believes in the Boys & Girls Clubs because of what it did for him.
Yarbrough, the Gainesville Fire Department’s deputy chief and fire marshal, serves on the local Boys & Girls Clubs board and has coached in various area youth sports leagues for years.
"I was a ‘Club Kid’ growing up," said Yarbrough, who was raised in a single-parent household at Harrison Square apartments and other Gainesville public housing with his brother and two sisters. "I can truly say the Boys & Girls Club turned my life around. There were some great leaders and role models in my life."
Yarbrough, 49, has been a city fire department employee for 24 years. He was named Gainesville’s fire marshal in 2002 and was promoted to deputy chief in September.
A 1977 graduate of Gainesville High School, he played football for legendary coach Bobby Gruhn before enlisting in the U.S. Army. As an Army medic stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, he crossed paths with then-Capt. David Petraeus, who went on to lead U.S. forces in Iraq.
In 1980, Yarbrough joined the Hall County Sheriff’s Office as a jailer and went to work for the Hall County Fire Department in 1984 as a first-generation public safety worker.
"Back then, rookie school consisted of getting on a truck and doing on-the-job training," Yarbrough recalled. "My first day, I had my first fire."
Many smoky fire scenes later, he was named fire marshal, a position which Yarbrough says gives him a lot of satisfaction through fire safety education efforts.
"It’s satisfying knowing I can go out and spread a safety message, someone can take that in, and it could save someone’s life," he said.
With two fatal fires in the city limits in 15 years, Yarbrough believes education and promotion of smoke detectors is working.
"Fire prevention has been a big key," said Yarbrough, whose office inspects more than 3,000 businesses in the city limits. "Since we turned it up in 1996, we’ve been reaping the benefits. Fires are down in commercial structures."
Yarbrough has two sons, Tevin, a junior strong safety for the Gainesville High School football team, and Jeromy, a freshman at Livingston College in Salisbury, N.C. He’s spent much of his free time overseeing their athletic pursuits.
"All through my kids’ lives, they played sports, and I coached," Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough says his career has been "a journey. I’ve seen ups and downs and good and bad."
His new rank "gives me a new challenge to conquer," he said.
"I just have a lot of gratitude that I am able to give back to the people in the community I grew up in," he said.