Jacksonville’s fire marshal, Lee Batey, has three uniforms in his closet: one for the Jacksonville Fire Department, another for the Anniston Army Depot Fire Department and the final one for refereeing football and basketball.
“I rely heavily on my calendar to keep me straight,” he said laughing earlier this month.
Batey, born in Anniston, grew up in Calhoun County and graduated from Saks High School in 1998. It was from his father, Stan Batey, that he learned to love firefighting and refereeing.
“My father worked as a firefighter at Fort McClellan,” he said. “He started there in 1972 and was promoted to fire inspector. He later left that position in 1985 to take a promotion that allowed him to be home on the weekends and holidays.”
Batey began working in maintenance at Fort McClellan shortly after he graduated high school, he said. A year later, like his father, he was offered a job at the fire department there, Batey said.
It was around the same time that Batey started refereeing, also with his father.
“He’s been a high school basketball and football referee for 45 years,” Batey said. “He suggested I look into it as a way to make some extra money and stay in shape while I was in college.”
Batey grew up playing basketball but stopped in ninth grade when he discovered golf, he said. When he wasn’t at school or practice, Batey said, he was traveling with his father to games.
“I watched him officiate from the time I was 7 until I was about 16,” he said. “That’s where I picked up a good foundation of how to referee before I ever put the uniform on.”
After Fort McClellan closed, Batey went to work as a firefighter at the Rome Fire Department in Georgia. Later, he took a position as a firefighter at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville and then transferred in 2005 to the Anniston Army Depot, where he’s now a captain.
In 2010 he was hired at the Jacksonville Fire Department and became the city’s first fire marshal in 2015. Through all that, though, Batey continued to referee high school basketball and football games. Last year, Batey decided to try out for a spot as a college referee.
“That’s like moving up to the majors in the refereeing world,” he said. “I had to go to a camp where I was graded on how well I knew the rules and my ability to officiate as well as my personality as an official.”
Batey was offered a position as a staff official for women’s college basketball. That job will take him miles from his home in Jacksonville.
“The tables have turned since I was little,” he said. “I used to ride with my dad to games and now that he’s retired he’ll ride with me and watch me officiate.”
Despite working two jobs and refereeing, Batey says he still finds time to be with his family.
“I’m always off one or two days a week,” he said. “They may not be consecutive days but they give me time to be with my wife and two kids, go to church and, most importantly, rest.”