JONESBORO — Atlanta deputy fire Chief Wilmond Meadows is no longer in the running to be Clayton County’s next fire chief, county officials confirmed.
On Wednesday, Clayton County Human Resources Director Renee Bright said Meadows withdrew his name from consideration for unspecified reasons. He was one of three finalists for the fire chief position, along with Clayton County assistant fire Chief Landry Merkison and Riverdale fire Chief Brenda Willis.
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners has replaced Meadows with a new finalist, said Bright.
“The board has decided to add another candidate and that candidate is Rosemary Cloud,” she said.
Cloud, Merkison and Willis are set to be publicly interviewed by commissioners during their Nov. 5 meeting at the Board of Commissioners Office, 112 Smith St. in Jonesboro.
As for Cloud’s late addition to the list of finalists, it was done outside of public view. No commission meeting had been called to discuss the search since the finalists were Oct. 15.
Meadows’ withdrawal, and the decision to add Cloud in his place, was not revealed by officials until after Clayton News Daily ran a profile on Meadows Wednesday as part of a series of profiles on fire chief candidates.
“I just wanted to make sure you had the most up-to-date information regarding that, since there had been a change,” said Bright in a message left on a reporter’s voicemail Wednesday morning.
The county has not posted a list of finalists on its website, leaving residents to find out about the search’s progress either through media reports or word of mouth.
Clayton County commission Chairman Jeff Turner said while the board did decide to add Cloud as a finalist, it did not formally vote to do so after Meadows withdrew his name. Instead, commissioners were polled individually by Bright and Cloud’s addition to the list of finalist was reached through a piecemeal decision, he said.
“We got a consensus decision to add her,” said Turner.
Cloud is a history-making fire chief
Cloud has been East Point’s fire chief for 11 years. Her application shows her annual salary in East Point is $100,000, which is slightly more than the $96,021 salary listed for Clayton County’s fire chief position. In June, she was named as a finalist to be chief of the New Orleans Fire Department, but elected leaders in the city ultimately chose an internal candidate, according to reports from The Times-Picayune newspaper.
Cloud’s Clayton County application shows she applied for the county fire chief job July 9, the day before New Orleans picked its new chief.
As East Point’s fire chief, Cloud became the first African-American female fire chief in the country, according to the city’s website. She could make even more history if she is hired by Clayton County. If either she or Willis is picked, the county’s fire department would gain its the first female fire chief.
In addition to wearing the chief’s hat, she also serves as the city’s emergency manager and oversees four fire stations and about 100 employees, according to the website. The website also credits Cloud with creating more than ten leadership and community service-oriented public safety programs in the city.
She was inducted in to the International Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management Hall of Fame in 2011.
“From my early days as a firefighter, to my present capacity as fire chief, I’ve always considered myself a servant of the community.” said Cloud in a 2011 statement from East Point. “I have always endeavored to encourage those who are voiceless to know they’re important, and to that end have dedicated my life works to ensure others have the opportunity to be successful. “
Like all of the finalists named so far, Cloud has local ties. She graduated from Russell High School in East Point. She holds a bachelors degree in applied behavior science from Chicago-based National Louis University and a masters degree in homeland security-related issues from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
She has also participated in training programs at Harvard University, Dillard University and the National Fire Academy.
Her inclusion as a finalist extends a trend of candidates with ties to the Atlanta Fire Department getting strong consideration for the position. She spent 22 years with the department and left in 2002 to take her current job with East Point, according to her application.
Meadows has been with the Atlanta Fire Department for 28 years, and Willis spent three decades with the department before she entered a brief retirement in 2010.
As for Cloud, her application shows her last position with the Atlanta Fire Department was assistant chief of airport operations. She oversaw three battalion chiefs, three code enforcement officers, a training chief and 180 firefighters and paramedics at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Cloud was the youngest of 14 children and has one daughter and one granddaughter, according to East Point’s website.