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Council approves new fire chief

Friday, November 16, 2018 by Jack Craver

On Thursday, City Council voted unanimously to approve the hiring of Joel Baker to head the Austin Fire Department. Baker spent 30 years with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, which he led as chief from June 2015 until February of this year, when he announced his retirement. Since former chief Rhoda Mae Kerr retired in March, the department has been led on an interim basis by Chief of Staff Tom Dodds. City Manager Spencer Cronk, who chose Baker over several other candidates, described the new chief’s “impressive career” in Atlanta and offered him a warm “welcome to the city of Austin family.” Baker returned the favor, saying that he was excited to work with the “brave women and men of the Austin Fire Department.” Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, also spoke in favor of Baker’s hiring, saying he was confident that the new boss would help reduce some of the long-standing tensions that have existed between “management and labor” in the department. “I truly believe he’s the right person to lead us to the next level.”

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