Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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May 16, 2014

City names new fire chief

Brent Smith will take reins of JFD in June

JACKSONVILLE — On Thursday afternoon Jacksonville city and fire department officials gathered for a big announcement – the naming of the new Jacksonville Fire Department chief.

The name was a familiar one to many.

Brent Smith, former JFD fire marshal and assistant chief, was announced as the newest addition. Smith served with the department from 1988 to 2008. He will take reins of the department after JFD Chief Paul White retires on May 31.

“I've had the opportunity to travel a lot of roads and meet many people, but there's one thing I could never get out of my mind – Jacksonville,” Smith said. “This a unique place.”

Since leaving, he has worked for Casco International, Tyler Junior College and Bell Helicopter.

“It is with pride that I accept this position,” Smith told City Manager Raissi during a Thursday afternoon press

conference.

In his cover letter to the city upon applying, Smith said he knows the challenges of the job, and he has a passion for the community.

“I believe if we have a strong fire department that is community- and service-minded, it can help keep Jacksonville in forward progress,” Smith wrote.

White said he was pleased with the choice.

“I think Brent will be a good fit for Jacksonville, and I think he will be here a long time,” White said after the announcement.

Raissi said nine people interviewed for the fire chief position, and it took almost a month to make a selection.

White, an almost 50-year veteran, has served as chief of the JFD for the past five-and-a-half years. He started out as a fireman for the City of Houston in 1967 at the age of 19. White rose through the ranks to District Chief in Houston.  He later worked for the cities of San Angelo, Tyler and Irving.

Jacksonville holds a special place in his heart, though.

“I met my wife in Jacksonville. She lived three doors down from my house,” White said.

Myra Glass White is a teacher at Nichols Intermediate. She and White have been married for three-and-a-half years.

It's White's second marriage. He has two daughters.

White said he will miss his JFD co-workers when he leaves at the end of this month.

"It's a real close-knit group of people that work here. Everyone gets along very well,” he said.

White doesn't plan to slow down too much in his retirement. On July 18, he will open a restaurant in Edom called Chief's Firehouse BBQ in a log cabin style structure.

“I used to have one (a restaurant) in Tyler when I was there. It was just things like fish and hamburgers. This is my first barbecue place,” White said.

Raissi said White was “nothing short of a miracle” who helped “gel the department together.”

A retirement reception for White is being planned at the end of the month by the city.

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