Columbia Fire Chief Finalists Seek Community Input
Three finalists for a job as Columbia’s Fire Chief heard from residents Thursday night at a meet and greet session. Maria Beermann-Foat, Christopher Riley and Andy Woody said they were gathering community input on what residents would like to see in their next fire chief.
Beermann-Foat has worked in Johnson County, Kansas, for 20 years as a battalion chief of operations for the county’s emergency medical services. Riley serves as a member of the U.S. Branch Council with the Institute of Fire Engineers, and Woody currently serves as the fire chief in Searcy, Arkansas.
Beerman-Foat has worked in Johnson County, Kansas for 20 years, and currently serves as a battalion chief for the county’s emergency medical services. She hopes her background in EMS will translate well into this job.
“In my 20 years, I’ve lived with fire department personnel, and we go to all the very same calls,” Beerman-Foat said. “In reality, emergency services, every 2 out of 3 calls here in Columbia is actually an EMS call, not a fire call.”
Woody also served as an adjunct instructor with the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute instructing firefighters statewide, according to a news release from the city of Columbia. He believes that it’s important to integrate himself into the community in order to best serve it.
“We engage the community, and we hear what the community is wanting from their fire department,” Woody said. “Then, we plan accordingly and we deploy our resources accordingly and we work with the community to do what they expect from their fire department.”
Riley says the fire department’s reputation as an “outstanding organization” is what attracted him to the job. He hopes to prioritize educational initiatives with the department.
“The community needs to be educated on disasters, fire safety, and CPR,” Riley said. “So there’s a lot of things were can do before a disaster or an emergency.”
Previous fire chief Randy White retired in October, after serving Columbia for 21 years. Deputy fire chief Kyle Fansler has been working as the acting fire chief until a new one is selected.
Fansler, who was at the event, says he’s looking for a boss who is willing to listen to the department’s needs and follow through on meeting them. After speaking with the candidates, he is confident that he’s found that.
“The biggest thing we need is a continuation of what we already started with Chief White’s leadership, not sweeping change because our organization is not broken,” Fansler. “We just need continuation as we get better and better as we move towards the future.”
Columbia City Manager John Glascock will sit down with the fire command staff to discuss the pros and cons of each candidate. He hopes that they will have the pool narrowed down to one by the end of next week.