Fire chief accepts new emergency job with city

He will leave department, coordinate preparedness


May 19, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Longtime Annapolis Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. will leave the department for a newly created job coordinating emergency preparedness for the city.

His new position - part of an enhanced homeland security team for the state's capital - is intended to make sure the city is prepared for crises involving hazardous materials, such as chemical explosions or bombs. He also will work with emergency readiness officials in the region, city officials said.

"I've been getting involved more and more with emergency management," said Sherlock, who has served on anti-terrorism, explosives and fire prevention commissions and is a member of the governor's Emergency Management Advisory Council.

Sherlock has been chief of the city's Fire Department since 1987. His current annual salary is about $109,700. After stepping down June 30, he will receive a pension from the city and return as a contract employee in July. His salary is in negotiation.

City officials said the search for a new chief will begin immediately. Taking over as acting chief after Sherlock's June 30 departure will be Battalion Chief Michael Lonergan, a 27-year fire service veteran.

In appointing Sherlock to the new job, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said his "in-depth knowledge," expertise and experience make him especially valuable in his new role. She also credited him for effective advocacy for the department and for guiding it through its national accreditation last year.

Sherlock's new position is part of a restructuring of duties due in part to the federal government's move to incorporate local police, fire and medical personnel in plans for emergency response and prevention.

Gary Simpson, director of emergency management, will become director of domestic preparedness, coordinating communications and intelligence. "The positions are equal," said Jan Hardesty, spokeswoman for the mayor.

Sherlock will work out of rented space until an emergency operations and response center is built as part of a $7 million renovation and addition to the city's Police Department. A federal grant-funded planner will work for him.

"It is the state capital. The concerns that we have are not the same as other municipalities have that are facing this," Moyer said.

At 62, Sherlock is a fourth-generation firefighter in the city, who spent 46 years in the fire service - first as a volunteer, then 37 years as a paid professional, with the last 17 as chief. The department has 98 uniformed men and women.

"This is an opportunity for me to stay in my hometown and continue to serve my community," Sherlock said.

He noted that under him, the department has updated equipment, increased staffing and enhanced training. He hopes his last goal for the department will be met in the fall: upgrading its fire-safety rating for insurance purposes, which may mean lower rates for the city.

Sherlock's new post comes after vocal opponents contended that he failed as chief to recruit minority firefighters and has not done enough to change what they see as a department culture hostile to African-Americans. But Sherlock, who has had the backing of the mayor, has said that the percentage of black firefighters in the city is higher than among some neighboring jurisdictions. He said he has ordered probes into racism complaints.

City officials said Sherlock's new position has nothing to do with minority complaints; rather, he expressed interest in it when Moyer asked.

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