Mayor hires new fire chief; fires interim chief

Jeremy Lazarus | 6/16/2017, 12:27 p.m.
Melvin D. “Hank” Carter has reached the summit of the city’s Fire Department. The 53-year-old Richmond native has been named ...

Melvin D. “Hank” Carter has reached the summit of the city’s Fire Department.

The 53-year-old Richmond native has been named the 21st chief of the Richmond Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney announced June 1 that Mr. Carter will lead the department that he was part of for 26 years before retiring May 31, 2014, and accepting Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s appointment to run the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.

He will start his new duties as chief on July 10, according to city spokesman Jim Nolan.

“Chief Carter’s work ethic, commitment to excellence and decades of experience in our city’s fire service make him the right choice,” said Mayor Stoney.

“It’s a privilege and an honor,” Mr. Carter stated, in accepting the position. 

Mr. Carter will take over from interim Chief I. David Daniels, who has held the reins since the mayor’s surprise firing of former Chief Robert A. Creecy earlier this year.

Mr. Daniels, who was one of the applicants for the chief’s position, was supposed to return to the post of deputy chief. But last Friday, a month before Mr. Carter is to take office, Mr. Daniels unexpectedly was fired.

Mayor Stoney and Selena Cuffee-Glenn, the city’s chief administrative officer and the official who actually sacked Mr. Daniels, did not offer any explanation for the decision, calling it a personnel matter.

The move caught firefighters by surprise. Although Mr. Daniels’ 2015 appointment initially drew objections, he had gained the respect of most firefighters during his time as deputy chief and interim chief.

Indeed, the mayor received a letter from the organization representing the firefighters supporting Mr. Daniels for the chief’s post on a permanent basis. The letter said Mr. Daniels had the support of 300 to 400 members.

Mr. Daniels’ ouster means Mr. Carter can choose his own deputy chief.

Mr. Carter will manage a department with a $50 million budget and an authorized staff of 433, including 412 professional firefighters, officers and emergency medical technicians.

For Mr. Carter, the new appointment comes with a big pay increase. He was earning about $93,000 a year in his state post. As the city’s fire chief, he will start at $145,000 a year, similar to the salary former Chief Creecy was making.

Mr. Carter brings years of experience to the post, along with significant respect from members of the department, many of whom he worked with previously.

“He’s the kind of guy who makes an immediate impression on everyone, and it’s a lasting impression, too,” former Chief Creecy said in 2014, at Mr. Carter’s retirement party as Richmond’s deputy fire chief for operations. “In a lot of ways, he’s the glue that holds a lot of things together around here.”

Others at the event lauded Mr. Carter for his integrity, for his role as a mentor and for being an unselfish leader.

A Marine Corps veteran, he started out as a volunteer firefighter in Henrico County in 1983, and within two years had become a paid firefighter in Petersburg.

In 1987, he joined Richmond’s department, where he rose through the ranks. He went on to command a company, then a station, then to serve as deputy fire marshal, as a battalion chief and finally as a deputy fire chief under Mr. Creecy.

Mr. Carter also serves in the Virginia National Guard and leads educational sessions for local Boy Scout troops.