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Pam Burton

A specially-assembled panel is culling through applications as part of a process to select the next chief of the Athens Fire Department.

City Administrator Pam Burton said the panel, consisting of city directors and a “guest” panelist who is a battalion chief from a larger fire department in the Metroplex are reviewing applications, of which 60 were received.

So far, Burton said eight people have been interviewed for the job. She said there are “some very qualified applicants” among the field.

“I think we’re just looking for someone with a strong background in fire service and administration,” Burton said. “ ... We are going to take our time to go through all the applications.”

The panel is looking to replace former fire chief Dan Barnes, who announced his retirement in absentia at a City Council meeting Jan. 28. Barnes, along with Athens Fire Marshal Waylen Padgett, was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 18, pending an investigation.

Barnes had been the city’s fire chief since July 1998. Assistant Fire Chief Tres Winn is serving as the department’s acting chief until a hire is made.

The investigations into Barnes and Padgett kicked off a rocky few months for the department. About two weeks before Winn was named chief, the City of Athens received results from a report it commissioned last fall to study the department.

The study, conducted by Matrix Consulting Group of Plano, offered recommendations to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the department. It also laid out a number of deficiencies, including a lack of long-term planning and poor communication.

Athens Mayor Randy Daniel said the new chief would be asked to implement many of the report’s recommendations.

Burton said she intends to brief the City Council about the progress in hiring a new chief at next week’s regularly scheduled workshop, which will be held on Wednesday. She said she hopes to take a recommendation for the new chief to the City Council by the following week.

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