Columbus, Ohio Fire Chief Prepared For New EMS Position
The things Jeff Meyer has seen bring to mind an old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
Asked Tuesday if any event he has witnessed in his 23 years as a Columbus firefighter sticks in his mind, the 44-year-old couldn't think of just one, but of many.
"I try to be positive, but there's not a whole lot of positive when you make these calls," he said shortly after Columbus Council confirmed his appointment to lead the city's Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. "Somebody's house has been destroyed and they've lost everything they had. I've seen that time and time again. It's not their fault. It just happens, and it could happen to anybody. It brought me back to my Boy Scout days, you know: Be prepared."
Be prepared for a fire, or a storm, or a car wreck -- that's something Meyer has tried to teach his family, his wife Holly, daughter Kristen and son Garrett. "We always raced to see if we could get our seat belt on first," he said. He knows what happens to people who aren't wearing seat belts when they're in an accident: "I've seen so many people who were injured in a car wreck, and if they'd just had their seat belts on, that wouldn't have happened," he said.
Come Dec. 1, it will be Meyer's job to make sure his department remains prepared to handle all sorts of emergencies -- fires, wrecks, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and anything else to which firefighters and paramedics must respond. He will take command that day from Roy Waters, who's to retire Nov. 30.
One of his goals will be the goal Waters wanted Columbus to reach: To achieve a Class 1 insurance rating for its fire protection services. Columbus currently is at Class 2.
After council confirmed Meyer's appointment, Waters' quiet, dignified leadership got more praise from city leaders -- even from one of the councilors who voted against appointing him fire chief in 1999 because Waters lives in Phenix City. "I appreciate everything you did for this community," Councilor Nathan Suber told him, "even though you live in Phenix City."
Before voting to confirm Meyer, Suber had wanted to know where he lives.
Meyer has lived in Columbus since 1965, when his father, an Army pilot, came to Fort Benning. He grew up in the Winchester neighborhood and in his youth worked as a bag boy at a grocery store and as a newspaper carrier, two jobs that taught him the importance of good customer service, he said. He was an assistant manager at the grocery store when he joined the fire department Jan. 30, 1982, and started working his way toward the top.
His promotion opens positions down the line, and all those jobs will be filled at the end of the day Nov. 30. Waters said he wants the department to make a seamless transition to its new leadership.
These are the other promotions:
Assistant Chief David Arrington will gain the rank of first assistant chief for operations.
Deputy Chief Jerry Fountain will become assistant chief for administration, filling Meyer's slot.
Battalion Chief Bobby Dutton will become deputy chief for homeland security.
Capt. Keith Watson will become a battalion chief.
Lt. Jay Leatherland will be promoted to captain.
Sgt. Rodney Fuller will be promoted to lieutenant.
Firefighter David Jenkins will be promoted to sergeant.
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