By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The search for a replacement for longtime Isle of Palms Fire Chief Ann Graham apparently is taking longer than expected. Two candidates already have turned down the job, and it could be well into 2021 before the IOP Council offers the position to someone else. Meanwhile, Police Chief Kevin Cornett will oversee the Fire Department, and two current Fire Department employees have been appointed to serve as interim deputy chiefs: Jason Smith for operations and training and Richard Hathaway for administration. “They are divvying up the duties,” Mayor Jimmy Carroll commented.
“We’ll probably go a few months this way. Maybe six months. I really don’t know. We’ll see how people gel into these positions.” “I’d like to see us get a chief and an assistant chief,” he added. “It’s not my decision. It’s a Council decision.” A letter sent to City Administrator Desiree Fragoso, signed by 30 full-time, part-time and volunteer members of the Fire Department, asked that Battalion Chief Smith be considered to replace Graham as the city’s fire chief. The Council apparently discussed the issue in executive session at its March 23 meeting, but the only action they took in open session was to approve a motion by Personnel Committee Chair John Moye to direct Cornett to continue to lead both the Police and Fire Departments and to appoint two deputy fire chiefs. There was no discussion following the executive session. Moye’s motion was supported by Council Members Phillip Pounds, Susan Smith, Randy Bell and Rusty Streetman. Carroll, Ryan Buckhannon, Jimmy Ward and Kevin Popson voted against the measure.
Ten candidates for the job of IOP fire chief were chosen by members of the Council’s Personnel and Public Safety committees Jan. 8 through Jan. 12, and a second round of interviews were conducted Jan. 25 and Jan. 29. Two candidates were offered the position, one from outside the Fire Department and Hathaway, but both of them chose not to take the job.