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Decision on Port Arthur fire chief pushed to next week

Nearly two weeks after city leaders interviewed three candidates for the vacant Port Arthur Fire Chief position, a decision has yet to be formally made.

City Manager Ron Burton told Port Arthur Newsmedia last week that the decision would need to be placed on a council meeting agenda in order for the council to discuss the hiring.

Mayor Thurman Bartie said on Friday that Burton’s department is in charge of replacing the chief.

Burton on Friday was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

The three candidates vying for the position left open by the retirement of longtime chief Larry Richard include current interim chief Robert Havens; former Victorville, California fire chief Greg Benson; and Terry Johnson, who serves as the fire chief in Junction City, Kansas.

During their presentations to a community panel, Johnson said his desire to come to Port Arthur stems largely from his job load in Kansas. As well as fire chief, he is also the EMS director and code administration administrator.

“I want to concentrate on being a fire chief,” he said when asked why he’s interested in relocating. “That’s what I am. I spent my whole life to be a fire chief.”

Johnson’s platform centered mostly around the importance of community relations.

He began his 10-year service in the U.S. Army at Fort Polk, and is familiar with Port Arthur.

Benson also spoke on communication, and ensuring the fire department has a good reputation in the community. He took the job in Victorville when a once-dismantled department was restarted. However he no longer works there, leaving to care for an ill relative.

While not from the area, Benson said he and his wife have stayed at Sea Rim State Park during a camping trip, and he has a friend who works for Beaumont Fire Rescue.

Havens, who has been filling in as interim chief for five months, started his career with the Port Arthur Fire Department 28 years ago.

He talked about putting more emphasis into EMS training for department members. Each one currently has at least their EMT-basic certification, he said, but he would like to open opportunities to increase that.

The city does have an emergency council meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday to discus a resolution authorizing Burton to execute a proposal allowing for the replacement of an HVAC water chiller at city hall, and for the establishment of the 2021 Juneteenth Alumni Softball Tournament.