Negron named Beaufort fire chief

Sammy Negron's rise through the ranks of the Beaufort Fire Department is complete.

Fifteen years after joining the department as a volunteer, Negron, 44, was named Thursday the permanent successor to Wendell Wilburn, who retired in April after nearly three decades as chief.

"It is obviously an honor and I do appreciate the city manager and the City Council for entrusting me with the safety of the citizens of Beaufort and our firefighters," said Negron, who has served as interim chief since Wilburn's retirement.

"We absolutely feel he's the right fit," said city manager Scott Dadson. "He's well-respected inside and outside the department. He's a real capable guy, and the city is fortunate to have him."

Dadson said he held off removing "interim" from Negron's title pending the results of a yearlong examination of the fire and police departments by consultants from the International City/County Management Association. The team presented its findings to the City Council last week, in which it largely praised the Fire Department, calling Negron's approach to public education "some of the most forward thinking ... in the entire United States."

"We were just trying to find the right timing," Dadson said. "From a management standpoint, I just felt it a little premature to make a decision prior to the release of such an important study."

Negron said he was not worried that the promotion wouldn't become permanent.

"I never allowed that to dominate my thinking," Negron said. "I told people, 'Look, I've got a job to do ... and if it works out that way, I'll be more than honored to put on that hat.' "

Negron joined the department in 1994 as a volunteer firefighter and became a full-time firefighter in 1999. He served as assistant fire marshal and lead fire inspector before being named interim chief.