Commonwealth Journal

Local News

July 9, 2013

Jasper is new Somerset Fire chief

Somerset —

The City of Somerset officially has a new fire chief. 
In a surprising move Monday evening, Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler asked that councilors hire Stephen Tyler Jasper, currently working with Somerset-Pulaski County EMS, as the city’s fire chief.
Girdler stated that the move came as part of some changes taking place within several city departments, especially those “in public protection and safety.”
Somerset City Council voted 9-1 to approve the hiring, with Councilor John Ricky Minton voting against Girdler’s recommendation.
“I think he (Jasper) will be fine, but I would’ve just liked to maybe found someone who was on the fire department who was qualified,” Minton said on Monday. “ ... I know that’s a big job. I wish him the best, I’ll work with him ... I still think we needed a firefighter. Surely we could’ve found one, but this is fine.”
Councilor Jimmy Eastham voted in favor of Jasper’s hiring, but he made a statement similar to Minton’s. 
“I really believe in hiring someone within the ranks,” said Eastham. “That didn’t seem to be possible this time. I guess no one stepped forward.”
Councilors Jim Rutherford and Jerry Burnett were not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.
Jasper became a possible candidate around two months ago, according to Girdler, who noted the city had been looking for several months for a permanent fire chief.
Junior Fortenberry, a longtime firefighter with the city, had been filling in as acting chief in the meantime. 
When asked whether he felt to hire someone from outside the fire department was a solid move, Girdler stated that “it had to be done.”
Girdler pointed to Jasper’s qualifications in management and his years in the U.S. Army — including being a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. — in explaining the city’s decision. 

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