First Posted: 7/21/2011
LUMBERTON — In October 1989, 24-year-old Paul Ivey took his first spin on Lumberton’s shiny red fire truck. Tuesday, nearly 22 years later, Ivey reported to a large warehouse fire on Elizabethtown Road as chief of the Lumberton Fire Department.
His climb to the top spot in the department came last week after serving as the interim chief since January following the retirement of Mike Cox. Before that Ivey served as deputy fire chief for eight years.
“It’s exciting,” Ivey said of his promotion. “And it’s a challenge ahead for me. We have an ambition to continue, as we always have, to do a lot for the community.”
He now commands 48 firefighters and two assistant chiefs.
Ivey didn’t grow up dreaming of fighting fires. His career path was charted by a firefighter friend who encouraged him to apply with his hometown department.
“It wasn’t something I really considered, but then I just fell in love with the job,” Ivey said.
Ivey said the thrill of not knowing what each day will bring keeps the job fresh.
“The uncertainty of the job is something I enjoy,” he said. “No day is the same.”
But the best part of his job, he said, is that he gets to help people.
“Going out in a time of emergency for the people of Lumberton and being able to make a difference, that’s really what this job is all about,” Ivey said.
Ivey entered the department in 1989 as a firefighter recruit. During the next 10 years, Ivey made his way through the department, gaining more experience, completing extra training and earning the ranks of firefighter 1, 2 and 3. In 1999, Ivey was promoted to fire captain. In 2002 he was named deputy chief.
While deputy chief, Ivey participated in budget preparation, personnel matters and other administrative tasks within the department — tasks he will now be directly responsible for as chief — as well as overseeing the overall operation of the department during his time as interim chief.
“In serving as interim fire chief and as a result of the interview process, Paul has demonstrated that he has the necessary skills and ability needed for the position of fire chief,” said City Manager Wayne Horne, who made the hire.
Horne said that Ivey beat out four other applicants for the position.
“We had a strong candidate pool,” Horne said. “The decision was based on experience and Paul has more than 20 years. His background in administration with the department was an important factor in the decision also.”
Horne said that the applicants went through a skills assessment center, which was independent of his office. A similar process was completed to fill the position of police chief. Applicants were also interviewed by Horne, who took into consideration the results of the assessment test.
Previously Councilman John Cantey has criticized the city for hand-picking Ivey, calling it “cronyism.”
Cantey said at a council meeting in April that the city was lowering its educational qualifications for the position of fire chief in an effort to promote Ivey to that position. However, the rest of the council believed that Ivey’s two-year associate’s degree in fire science met the education requirement as written, as did applicants who had four-year degrees.
After being notified of Ivey’s promotion to fire chief, Cantey said, “As a council member, we put the utmost faith respect into the city manager’s decisions. If the interview process showed that Paul Ivey was the most experienced candidate, then I respect the decision.”
Cantey also said that he hopes this will open up other positions in the department for advancement, “especially for the ones that hold degrees.”
“I’m a hometown type of person, I am happy here and worked hard to advance,” Ivey said. “I look forward to the coming years and will appreciate the challenges they bring.”
— Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at (910) 272-6127 or [email protected]