JONESBORO Clayton County commissioners weighed complaints some firefighters made to Chairman Jeff Turner about department morale during their search for an interim fire chief.
The complaints played a role in a two-week delay in chosing a temporary leader for the department, although Turner would not say what the exact complaints were, or who made them. He said he could not divulge that information because the firefighters spoke to him confidentially about their concerns.
Those concerns were a factor in the commission’s decision to appoint Dwayne Jackson, the department’s deputy chief and fire marshal, as the interim fire chief Tuesday, said Turner.
“I’m not saying morale was God-awful or anything like that, but we wanted someone who would improve the morale,” said Turner. “There had been some issues, because I had heard from some firefighters that they needed change.”
Jackson’s appointment came as somewhat of a surprise because there had been widespread speculation in recent weeks that Hood’s second-in-command, Assistant Chief Landry Merkison, would likely get the interim job. Merkison was sitting a couple of seats away from Jackson when the appointment was made.
There was no public display of emotion with the decision by outgoing fire Chief Jeff Hood or other fire department employees who stayed late to see what commissioners would do about the interim position. After Jackson was appointed, Hood and the other employees were friendly and shook his hand but then left.
Hood was unavilable for comment Wednesday and Thursday because he was in meetings.
Turner wouldn’t say exactly how many employees complained about morale in the department, so it’s not clear if there is a widespread issue or if it is confined to a few individuals. He would only say “some of the employees” approached him with concerns.
“There’s 300-and-something firefighters that work for us and I have heard from some, and they may have been disgruntled employees or they may not have been,” said Turner. “But their concern was that the morale in the department was kinda low and they were hoping to see somebody with a new vision.”