Hall County’s search for a new fire chief will soon come to an end, with an announcement expected Friday, Sept. 7.
The position has been vacant since October, when former Chief Jeff Hood resigned. Former Deputy Fire Chief Mark Arnold has been serving as interim fire chief since.
The Times filed requests for the personnel files of the three finalists for the position: Chris Armstrong, fire chief in Littleton, Colorado; Charles Wells, retired deputy fire chief for Gwinnett County; and Byron Dixon, fire captain for Arlington County, Virginia.
The county began the search in June. At the time, County Administrator Jock Connell said the new fire chief should have character and integrity.
“Ability is critical, but leadership skills may be the most significant attribute that we’re looking for because we need some strong leadership to occupy the position,” Connell said in June.
Here is the background available on the three candidates:
Chris Armstrong has been fire chief in Littleton, Colorado, since 2014.
Before being hired in Littleton, he had worked with the fire department in Miramar, Florida, since 1988 and had served as deputy chief of operations in Miramar since 2009. While in Florida, he rose through the ranks of the fire department and served in several positions.
In 1988, he was hired as a firefighter and paramedic, and he then became a lieutenant in 1995. In 1998, he became a captain and oversaw hiring and training for new recruits. He also served as a division chief from 2000 to 2009.
Armstrong has a master’s degree in emergency services management and a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, both from Columbia Southern University. Among other certifications, he also completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University in 2012.
He received the highest possible scores on a performance evaluation by Littleton’s city manager in March.
In November, voters in Littleton will decide whether the city’s fire and emergency services will be taken over by South Metro Fire Rescue, which serves 179 square miles in Douglas and Arapahoe counties in Colorado. In April, the Littleton City Council approved South Metro Fire Rescue to provide service starting in 2019, according to the South Metro website.
Arlington County declined to provide Dixon’s personnel file, citing that Virginia open records are only available to Virginia residents and members of the media that broadcast or distribute in Virginia. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act is not available to The Times, and personnel records are exempt from disclosure, according to a letter from Arlington County’s Freedom of Information Act officer Ina Chandler.
In June, Charles Wells retired from his position as a district commander with the Gwinnett County Fire Department after serving in Gwinnett since 1987 in various fire services roles.
Wells was hired in 1987. During his tenure with Gwinnett, he held several positions, including cardiac technician, EMT, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and deputy chief.
In 2015, he was demoted from division director to firefighter district commander. According to records, that demotion was voluntary.
Before being hired in Gwinnett, Wells was a paramedic with an ambulance company in Marietta for almost four years and had worked as a photographer.
Wells consistently received positive marks on performance evaluations from supervisors.