EATON – Eaton Fire Captain Brian Smith was a unanimous choice by Eaton City Council members to replace retiring Eaton Fire and EMS Chief Jack Royer.
Smith, 33, emerged as the choice over 23 other candidates after a detailed two-month process.
Royer announced he planned to retire at the end of September.
Smith, who will officially begin his new position on Sept. 1, was named interim Fire and EMS Chief by a 5-0 vote after council reconvened from executive session during its Monday, Aug. 8, meeting.
“I’m excited,” Smith said after the meeting. “Obviously, it’s something that I’ve worked hard for to put myself in the position to get the opportunity. I’m just excited that council and city staff has faith in me that I can carry on something Chief Royer has done a good job of starting.”
Smith, a 2001 graduate of Eaton High School, began his firefighting career in 2002 as a volunteer with Eaton and has worked his way up the ranks. He left for a year in 2004 for a contract job in Iraq, but returned and was later promoted to captain in 2007.
“I think it’s a little more special because it is my hometown,” Smith said. “My grandfather retired from here as a 25-year volunteer. It’s something I’ve been around since I was little. It holds a little more meaning and it’s a little more special. I’m pretty involved in the community. I try to be as involved as I can. I’m proud of the community we live in.”
The applicants went through a four-station assessment process which graded them on how they would handle different aspects of the job, then followed with panel interviews.
“Going through the process was good. I like the process we had in place. It allowed us to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. It was tough,” Eaton Mayor Dave Kirsch said. “We’re excited. We’re proud of him and it’s always good to promote from within.”
During the next month, Smith will work closely with Royer.
“I’ve been around. I know somewhat what to expect, but I don’t have the full picture,” Smith said of the training he will receive from Royer. “There is going to be an adjustment period for everyone involved. The best thing we can do is just ease into it and do the job the best we can collectively. It’s not just one person that makes everything work. We’ve all got to work together.”