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Conway fire chief committee narrows the field

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

CONWAY — Conway is closer to hiring a fire chief after a search committee interviewed three applicants by phone and plans to conduct personal interviews, the city’s human-resource director said.

Lisa Mabry-Williams said the committee interviewed three out-of-state applicants by speaker phone: Bryan Nickerson of Los Alamos, N.M.; Jerome Gaines of Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Joseph Gorman of Texas City, Texas.

Gaines and Gorman “most likely” will be invited to Conway to meet with the committee, she said.

She said the committee has not started with its in-state interviews.

“It’s going to be a little difficult with the holidays,” she said.

Former Fire Chief Bart Castleberry retired in July. Conway Assistant Fire Chief Mike Winter and Battalion Chief Mark Jones will have in-person interviews, Mabry-Williams said.

Before anyone is hired, the public will be invited to meet them, she said.

“We’ll do the same type of thing we did with the police-chief search a few years ago,” she said.

The advisory committee does not hire the new chief, Mayor Tab Townsell emphasized in an earlier interview.

“It’s my decision,” he said. “The [City] Council can override me by a two-thirds vote. They can’t initiate the hiring; they can’t pick one.”

Mabry-Williams said the deadline to hire a chief has not been set in stone.

“There’s not been a date set,” she said. “They want to do their due diligence … and make sure we hire the best candidate for the position.”

The advertisement for the position listed the current salary as $87,846, and states: “Prefer a bachelor’s degree in management, public administration, emergency administration, management or a related field from an accredited college or university and 10 years of progressively responsible experience in the fire service, including serving as battalion chief or higher in a multi-station fire department in a city of comparable or larger size to Conway. Preferred qualifications include evidence of continuing training and self-development from the National Fire Academy. Equivalent combinations of education, experience and certifications may be considered.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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