Knowing he has big shoes to fill, newly named interim Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron says he looks forward to putting his own thumbprint on the city's fire service.
Negron, 43, was selected for the interim position by city manager Scott Dadson on Friday, the same day Wendell Wilburn retired after nearly three decades as chief. No schedule has been set to name Wilburn's permanent replacement.
Negron said that while driving to the firehouse Friday he began to feel the gravity of the work ahead.
"It's a challenge, and I think the reality of the all the responsibilities is starting to set in," he said.
Negron joined the department in 1994 as a volunteer firefighter and became a full-time firefighter in 1999. He most recently served as assistant fire marshal and lead fire inspector.
Dadson said Negron is well-suited to steer the department through its transition.
"(Negron) has excellent fire control management skills, the respect of the men and women in not only the Fire Department but in other departments around the city," he said. "This keeps the continuity of good leadership that already exists in the department intact."
Negron will assume command of a fire department that has lost three of its most senior members in the last four months. The department's training officer, Capt. Paul Bridgman, retired in January, and Assistant Fire Chief James Colwell also retired in January and will teach at the S.C. Fire Academy.
Negron said the recent departure of leaders poses a challenge for the department's 33 employees, but one he believes he's ready for.
"We're going to miss (Wilburn's) leadership traits, but I've got to develop my own management style and learn how to lead this department," he said.