After serving in an interim role when former Chief Bill Fincher stepped down in May, Tony Taylor got the nod last week from City Manager Don Hoyt to be head of the fire department.
“It’s not going to be a rebuilding phase,” Taylor said Wednesday about his new job. “That’s what’s so great about this — we’re not starting in a hole.”
The reason for that, Taylor said, is teamwork.
“We got a lot of things we want to do,” Taylor said, reffering to himself and assistant fire chiefs J.J. Brooks, David Randle and Rick Sensenbach.
“It’s going to take all of us to bring that together for what we want to accomplish.”
Taylor is now responsible for a department that employs 88 when fully staffed, operates on an annual budget of $4.2 million and receives anywhere from 4,500 to 5,000 service calls a year, he said.
His goals in the new job include improving technology and involving the department more in the life of the community. To those ends, Randle, who Taylor said handles the technological side of things, has gotten the department on Twitter @AnnistonFire, and will soon have it on Facebook as well.
“We want the community to realize we’re here to serve them,” Randle said. “That’s what the job of a fireman is.”
Taylor said the department is also working toward becoming more involved in the community through such programs as mentoring in area schools and teaching fire safety classes to the elderly. In August, the “Pink Heals,” a Phoenix-based nonprofit breast cancer awareness organization, will bring its touring pink fire truck to Anniston.
Years of working together is expected to foster smooth communication between Taylor and his assistants. Taylor started working at the department 27 years ago. Randle said he’s got him beat by half a year, while Brooks has served 25 years and Sensenbach 20. Over the last 20 years, the four have become close both on and off the job. “We’re real blessed how close this group is,” Taylor said. “We’ve all become friends off duty, our families know one another; we all hang out together.”
The camaraderie has led to a “relaxed and fun” environment around the station according to Taylor, but Randle is quick to point out it’s not at the expense of the pride they put into their job.
“You think of those old pictures of firemen sitting around playing checkers and it’s not like that,” Randle said. “I could sit here for an hour and give you little snippets of what we do.”
“The days of me finding something for someone to do, those are all over,” Brooks said. “They’re not sitting there waiting for a call.”
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.