Four Finalists Named For Escambia County Fire Chief As Selection Nears

January 25, 2021

Four finalists to be the next Escambia County Fire Rescue chief will take part in one-on-one meetings with county officials this week.

The four will meet individually with Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley and the department directors in Public Safety.

“If there is a candidate that really stands out, hopefully it will be a March start date for that person,” county spokesperson Laura Coale said. She said Gilley will make the final decision on a new fire chief, and it will not require the approval of the Escambia County Commission.

Christopher Hatch is the only local candidate on the final four list.

The finalists for Escambia Fire Rescue chief are, in alphabetical order:

  • William Beaty, Jr. has served as the fire chief at the Garden City Fire Department in Kansas since December 2019. He previously worked as the program coordinator at Lincoln Land Community College (Springfield, Illinois) from 2007 to 2019. He also worked with the Springfield (Illinois) Fire Department from 1996, to 2019, leaving as a captain.
  • Roger Burton served in the Ohio Air National Guard from 2010 until 2020, retiring as installation fire chief.
  • Clinton Cooke served with the South Monroe County Fire Department in Conroe, Texas, from 2009 to 2020 when he departed as Assistant Fire Chief. On his application he stated he reason for leaving as “agreement between the fire chief and I. Will discuss further in interview”.
  • Christopher Hatch has worked with the NAS Pensacola Fire Department since 1986. He was a supervisory firefighter from 1986 to 2005 and has served as assistant fire chief of operations since 2005. He has also volunteered for Escambia Fire Rescue since 1982, serving in positions ranging from volunteer firefighter to assistant district chief and district chief. He is currently district chief of the Bellview Station of Escambia Fire Rescue and serves as president of the Escambia County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

There were 60 people that applied to be the next fire chief.

The job has been open for well over a year. The county’s last fire chief, Rusty Nail, was hired in April 2018 and submitted his resignation about a year later. file photo, click to enlarge.


28 Responses to “Four Finalists Named For Escambia County Fire Chief As Selection Nears”

  1. Michael Beckman on February 19th, 2021 11:43 am

    ECFD has the opportunity to hire as its new Fire Chief one individual who has the ability, skills and knowledge of a proven Fire service leader. He will lead from the front and tackle any past, present or future issue/concerns. Chris is a forward looking leader that will push ECFD to be “best in class” for years to come.

  2. Time for change on January 28th, 2021 11:10 pm

    How many candidates truly want the job as Fire Chief???? Vs moving here because their family wants to retire here and they like the beach and golf courses…. and etc etc

    I would pick the guy that grew up here, knows the inner workings, has experience from back in the day as well as currently.. someone that wants to take on this task and has the determination to do what needs to be done because it’s time for change, it’s time to fix the problems, it’s time to tackle all the things we’ve seen in the news over the years…

    Just my two cents from everything I’ve read. Seems like a logical choice to me.

  3. Willis on January 28th, 2021 3:10 pm

    Can tell Chris has a lot of friends anyway.

  4. Rob on January 28th, 2021 11:35 am

    Chris Hatch, by far would be perfect for this job. He is from the area and has worked in numerous disaster incidents and has exceeded expectations. He started as a volunteer in Escambia County and has busted his butt to be an Assistant Chief with NAS Pensacola FIre Department. If Chris Hatch isn’t selected I can promise you later on Escambia County Fire Rescue will kick themselves later.

  5. Sheading Peacock on January 28th, 2021 10:22 am

    Candidates…. Are you sure you want this feather in your hat?

  6. Melissa Pino on January 27th, 2021 4:58 pm

    Dalton Lovelace, most of the content in my comment is public information that anyone who has been following the Fire Chief search, including watching discussion of it during meetings, has access to. What I stated concerning the advertisements for the position was the result of a Sunshine public records request made through County Administration. The list of candidates who were scheduled for interviews previous to this Final Four list that was made public was circulated by numerous people with access to the list, probably for the very reason that many people have been concerned that this search has been going kerflooey and has always been geared to attempt to land on a particular applicant.

    There were no clowns utilized in the gathering of the information.

  7. Observation on January 26th, 2021 11:08 pm

    Pino just makes stuff up to try to make her target of blame look bad..Follow for a while and you will we she is off the wall. She takes in info chews it up and spits out nonsense.

  8. Dalton Lovelace on January 26th, 2021 7:13 pm

    Hmmmmmm I wonder who gives you all your intel Pino? I believe one of them is actually a clown…. no serious, the county paid him to go to clowning school back when he was the FD PIO dude…. thats why he gets paid the most out of all the Lieutenants… but he actually doesn’t perform these duties anymore but still gets the high pay as he does….

    Chief Hatch has the experience and knowledge to do what needs to be done.

  9. Carolyn Patterson on January 26th, 2021 6:10 pm

    Hire the highly qualified LOCAL candidate, Mr. Hatch.

  10. David on January 26th, 2021 1:14 pm

    Unfortunately..politics will dictate which person gets the job.

    Hope I am wrong.

    Just my opinion.

  11. Ayla on January 26th, 2021 10:39 am

    “M in Bratt” I agree with you…I imagine it would be the Escambia County Fire Department’s goal to groom the local firefighters for success, to teach them what they need to know so can eventually go out for an available fire chief position, once they’re ready, if they decide to do so.

    I’m not saying give it away to any local firefighter, of course the qualifications must be met, but wouldn’t you want to train so well within your local department, that in time, one of your own has a shot at chief and you have a better chance of promoting from within? I can see that’s clearly not the case in Escambia County.

  12. Melissa Pino on January 26th, 2021 10:08 am

    Reading the comments here, it only solidifies my sense that I have had from the get-go that we were shaping up for another of Janice Gilley’s “friends and family” hires. It reminds me a whole lot of the lobbying that went on for a particular candidate for the superintendent position.

    Those comments are not to cast aspersion on the service that all of the four finalists have given, for which we should all be grateful.

    But this very scenario is why I hit the ground running on the Fire Chief position from the first word that Gilley might have already had a favored son in mind for the position, straight on the heels of her lowering both the qualifications and pay for the role.

    I spoke to this issue at a meeting, and the fact that my public records request for the advertising for the position was sandbagged until the position was already closing, and the records I did receive had no indication of what date the announces actually went out to various places.

    None of these four finalists have anything near the qualifications of some of the other candidates from the long list. How does that happen? Are we to take it that nobody from that long list with higher credentials and quals is actually interested in serving as Chief in Escambia County? That’s to say nothing of a list of interviewees that was circulating a couple of weeks ago, with three of the four finalists not even on that list. Was that list disinformation, or did the final four go off script?

  13. Tonja Malone on January 26th, 2021 9:27 am

    Christopher Hatch

  14. Ann Sidener on January 26th, 2021 6:37 am

    Chris Hatch is the prime candidate for this position. Thank you for your service.

  15. David Poole on January 26th, 2021 4:46 am

    The man started his career as a volunteer firefighter! What better employee to hire then a man who donated his time and life for Free to Escambia County residences? When a person gives that much from the heart, you know they care about the people in Escambia County, the profession. I hope the county commissioners hire Chris, but more then that. I pray they support the new chief a 110%. Give him the tools, and support to make ANY and All changes necessary to make the Fire service operate professional and safe for th th e firefighters and citizens . I

  16. Cook on January 26th, 2021 12:57 am

    Chris Hatch, you are the person for the job. Good luck my friend! You have much to offer as a Chief Officer, you have never forgot where you came from.

  17. Wes Brewer on January 25th, 2021 8:48 pm

    Chief Hatch is a well rounded extremely experienced candidate. Having had Volunteer and Career Experience as a Chief level Officer speaks volumes about his knowledge and Personally. He is well versed with Escambia County’s Public Safety history positives and negatives. If he can get the support he must have from County Commissioners and Management to overcome the Budgetary shortfalls we are currently experiencing to rebuild the equipment fleet and purchasing. A retention program and Career path program for Volunteer to Career candidates needs to be implemented to keep from losing people we have trained and invested time in. Chief Hatch has been involved in some of the most destructive and trying times we’ve experienced in our County. I have full confidence in his performance if he can get the support and funding to restore the Fire Department we deserve .

  18. Beegee on January 25th, 2021 8:13 pm

    Christopher Hatch……..

  19. Francine evans on January 25th, 2021 1:40 pm

    For sure Chris hatch! The best all the way around!!

  20. Frank Denali on January 25th, 2021 12:01 pm

    Unfortunately, whoever is naive enough to take the position will quickly realize it’s not worth the liability headaches. At the top, you will be sued into oblivion due to the systemic failures. No thanks. A few weeks into the position, most simply put their face into their hands and shake their head.

  21. Paul on January 25th, 2021 11:32 am

    My vote goes to Chris Hatch. For obvious reasons.

  22. Eddie Roukema on January 25th, 2021 11:02 am

    Good luck Chris!

  23. Christine Bradshaw on January 25th, 2021 10:04 am

    Chief Hatch so deserves this! He is a hard working guy. He has done so much for his community and personally, so much for my family. Dwain S. Bradshaw would be soo excited for you, Chief!

  24. Steve on January 25th, 2021 9:18 am

    It’s apparent that Chris Hatch, a local resident is the most qualified.

  25. Loop-de-Loop on January 25th, 2021 8:34 am

    With the “complete history” of ECFR/Public Safety over the past 10 years….. It’s a wonder that anyone would apply for this position.

  26. Oversight on January 25th, 2021 7:36 am

    Head of the union to head of the department? Seems like a conflict of interest.

  27. M in Bratt on January 25th, 2021 5:02 am

    It speaks pretty poorly of the County’s leadership development efforts that there are not several qualified applicants from within the Escambia County Fire Dept. Why would you want a bunch of applicants that are not even certified as Firefighters by the State of Fla.?

  28. Me on January 25th, 2021 3:47 am

    Good Luck, Chris! Looks like YOU deserve it!!!
    Thanks for your service to our area!

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