GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier Fire Chief Robert Jones knows just about everyone in the fire department. After all, he's been there for 25 years. Becoming fire chief was a goal, and he beat out 25 other applicants to land the top job.
"I just feel that city management understood that I had history with the fire department. I've been here since 1989 when it all began, and I'm confident in my abilities to help the fire department grow," said Jones.
Part of that growth is happening on the western edge of the city near Highway 57, where a new fire station is almost complete. According to Jones, there's still more work to be done.
"We're going to bring in six new firemen and my goal is to get those guys trained up to performance level, and continue to grow the fire department."
Like any good leader, Jones is unassuming, and gives all the credit for his success to others.
"They're the reason why I'm here, I believe. They are the ones that do the work. They're the ones that get it done on the street and basically my job is to provide for the day to day operations and manage them. They're the ones that actually get work done. I just make sure the training, the tools, the equipment and the know how to get it taken care of in a timely manner."
During his time, firefighting has changed, impacted by social media just like everything else in today's fast paced society.
"Used to, you'd have an accident on the interstate and you might get one or two calls, and now, everybody has got a phone, everybody is lit up, and you could just about pull up and accident on Facebook before an engine company arrives."
Having started at the bottom and risen through the ranks during a long 25 year career, does the new fire chief consider himself a role model for younger firefighters?
"I wouldn't put myself above anybody else, but I try and do the right thing. I try to be transparent as I can be and guide these guys to follow in my footsteps in what I believe to be true."
What's also true is the fire department has been left in good hands.
Chief Jones also says he doesn't see himself ever leaving Gautier and will probably retire from the city as chief.