City removes ‘interim' tag from fire chief's title

Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 9:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.

The city removed the "interim" tag from Gene Prince's title on Thursday, naming him the chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue.

Prince had been the interim chief since March, when then-Chief William Northcutt was hired to head Alachua County Fire Rescue and serve as deputy director of the Department of Public Safety.

City Manager Russ Blackburn said at Thursday's City Commission meeting that Prince was the right fit.

"He is very well-respected in the community," Blackburn said. "He has an exceptional commitment to the fire department and the city of Gainesville."

Six candidates, including Prince and Deputy Chief Tim Hayes, were interviewed during the "extensive recruitment process," Blackburn said.

Prince has been with Gainesville's fire department since 1984, after working two years as a firefighter in Ocala, and had been a deputy chief before being selected as interim chief.

Prince said he was "honored" to get the role in a permanent capacity.

"I felt very good about the process, and I was fortunate and blessed that they offered me the job," he said.

But, he said, "I think we have quite a few challenges in front of us."

While budget challenges for his department were, for the most part, avoided when the commission passed a fire service assessment in June, he said there were concerns about how Florida's new governor, Rick Scott, would impact funding for cities. Also, as there are fewer fires and more demand for medical services, firefighters have to be able to attend to car accident victims as well as the "big emergencies that you have to prepared for."

But Prince, who has two children with his wife, Susan, said he has confidence in the department's 132 firefighters.

"There's a lot of good men and women that work there," he said. "Our future is bright."

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