NEWBERRY — The City of Newberry officially has a new fire chief after Gene Shealy was sworn in at a special meeting called City of Newberry on June 23.
“Today is an important day in the history of the Town of Newberry and the Newberry Fire Department. On this occasion, I have re-read some of the proud history of the Newberry Fire Department. Before there was a fire department, in the late 1860s and early 1870s there was a series of fires in Newberry which caused a lot of damage Most of the buildings were wooden and had quickly consumed by fire. In response, the Newberry Fire Department was formed in 1873,” Mayor Foster Senn said during his opening remarks. “That means the next year, 2023, will be the 150th anniversary of the fire service, and Chief Shealy already has plans in mind to celebrate this anniversary.”
Senn went on to discuss the department’s long history, including that the Newberry Opera House was designed, in part, to house the fire department, and the first floor, where the lobby now stands, was the home of the fire department for many years.
“Later this fire station (Firehouse Conference Center) was built and housed firefighters for decades. I’m glad we’re having the ceremony here today for the history – and for that good air conditioning,” said said Senn “The most important part of the Fire Department’s history is its people, the generations of Newberry firefighters who bravely and effectively served the citizens of Newberry. The service’s excellence and great tradition of Newberry fire continues today.
Since 1905, there have only been nine chiefs, according to Senn.
• Henry Burton Wells.
•Robert Herman Wright.
• Samson Doria beam.
• Dave Laird.
• Otis Whitaker.
• Ed Hazel.
• Lewis Lee.
• Joe Palmer.
“Each of these chiefs were exceptional leaders and were highly respected in Newberry and beyond. Today, on being sworn in as Chief of the Newberry Fire Department, Gene Shealy, an exceptional and highly respected leader in the community of Newberry and beyond. Chief Shealy, Newberry Town Council knows that you will do an outstanding job. Please know that we look forward to supporting you,” Senn said.
City Manager Matt DeWitt provided insight into Shealy’s history with the town of Newberry and the easy decision to appoint him chief.
“Chief Shealy began his fire service career in 2005 with the Newberry City Fire Department as a recruit firefighter. He was promoted to senior engineer in 2008, lieutenant in 2012, and in 2014 he was promoted to captain on recruiting and retention. Chief Shealy’s past experiences have allowed him to work extensively recruiting, mentoring and training new members of the City of Newberry and Newberry County Fire Department, as well as helping to teach the skills portion of the Firefighter I and Firefighter II programs at the Newberry County Career Center. He also oversaw the Newberry Junior Firefighters program which attracted young men and women from various parts of the state,” DeWitt said. “Chief Shealy has been an instructor at the South Carolina Fire Academy since 2014 and has provided firefighter training throughout Newberry County and the State of South Carolina. He has served on the South Carolina Firefighters Association Advisory, Financial, Recruitment and Retention Committees; he currently sits on the Rules Committee. Chief Shealy was recently recognized as an Honorary Inductee into the National Technical Honor Society for his work with the Firefighter I and Firefighter II certification program at Newberry County Career Center.
DeWitt added that the Town of Newberry is excited for what the future holds for the Newberry Fire Department and to see Shealy’s vision continue to move the Newberry Fire Department forward.
After being sworn in by Judge Frank Partridge, Shealy offered a few words of thanks.
“I stand before you today humbled and honored to be your fire chief. First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through whom all things are possible. I want to thank my mother and my father, sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews for their support throughout my career,” he said. “Special thanks to my beautiful wife, Jessica, who is my rock – I couldn’t face this world without you. I want to thank my most beautiful baby girl, Aly, who reminds me daily of what this world really should be like. It’s love and happiness and she displays both every day.
Shealy also took a moment to thank retired fire chief Keith Minick for his 30 years of dedicated service, especially his 14 years as chief and the last eight years he has spent working with him. .
“I would like to thank three captains who have greatly marked my career; Captain Tim Swygert, Captain Blake Davis and Captain Burt Mohler. I spent my first seven years working with and for these gentlemen. I am very grateful for their continued friendship and brotherhood. Thank you for all of your guidance and instruction over the years,” Shealy said. “I also want to thank Chief Joe Palmer, who hired me as a firefighter 17 years ago.”
Shealy concluded by saying that the City of Newberry Fire Department is rich in tradition, progression and history.
“No matter where you travel in the fire department, people know the Newberry Fire Department. It’s no coincidence that this fire department has a heritage of strong leadership and brave firefighters. This standard is as strong today as it has ever been. Thank you for allowing me to be the strongest Chief of Staff and the bravest, most compassionate and professional firefighter this state has to offer,” he said. “God bless our town and God bless the Newberry Fire Department.”
Contact Andrew Wigger at 803-768-3122 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.