JONESBORO It is possible that Clayton County fire Chief Jeff Hood will retire from his position next week without knowing who will be his temporary replacement.
The question of who will be Hood’s interim successor remains shrouded in mystery because the five-member county commission isn’t sure who it wants in the position, said Chairman Jeff Turner.
Commissioners were scheduled to vote on an appointment last week, but Turner unexpectedly had it pulled at the last minute during a pre-meeting work session.
“We really don’t have a consensus with three commissioners to say, ‘This is who we want to name as our interim chief,’” said Turner. “We’re still trying to see who would be the best pick, but there are a lot of really good qualified candidates in the department.”
Hood’s last day as chief is July 19 and the last scheduled meeting of the commission before then is set for July 16. It’s not certain the commission will make a decision at that meeting though. Turner said even he hasn’t settled one fire department employee to nominate, and he won’t know who other commissioners want to appoint until the meeting.
“We might vote next week, but I’m not sure,” said Turner. “We’re just trying to take our time and make sure we pick the right person to lead the department.”
If the commission doesn’t make an appointment next week, Turner said Assistant Chief Landry Merkison will lead the fire department until an interim chief is chosen.
“He’ll continue to do what he’s already doing,” said Turner. “Right now, he’s running the department because Chief Hood is on vacation. If we don’t pick someone next week, he’ll just continue in that role.”
Hood has led the department for the last two and a half years, after the commission unanimously voted to have him replace former fire Chief Alex Cohilas on an interim basis in December 2010. Commissioners later made the position permanent, but he announced his retirement earlier this year to spend more time with his ailing parents.
Cohilas said at the time that Hood was his choice to replace him, but Hood has not publicly indicated a preference for his own interim successor.