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Madison to begin hunt for new fire chief

MADISON, Ala. -- Now Madison's new council members are in place, it's time for them to make key decisions. That includes what to do about a new fire chief.

Chief Ralph Cobb retired in October, following a few months on administrative leave. The council is preparing to hire his replacement.

Monday, the council approved a new job description for the fire chief. They added a provision to require the chief to have a bachelor's degree in Fire Science, Public Administration, or similar. They also added that the new fire chief must become a Madison resident. That was an important one, said council president Tommy Overcash.

"We pretty much need our police chief and our fire chief to be close at hand, so they can take command of a scene," he said.

Overcash said they would post the job soon, and accept applications for several weeks. They're not just looking for locals to apply. He believes it will be a region-wide search.

"It could be a fairly local person, or it could be somebody from somewhere else," he said. "We'll just interview and we'll try to find the best possible candidate."

Overcash said Madison takes a lot of pride in its police and fire departments. They've recently been able to spend more on fire equipment, and he said that kind of city support for its fire department is one some other cities may not be fortunate enough to have. He's confident they'll receive more than a hundred applications when the job becomes officially available.

But this is just the start of the council's work. They'll need to decide whether to replace or reappoint the city clerk and city attorney, because that's something that needs to happen every four years. The council also needs to figure out what to do about the police chief.

Police Chief Larry Muncey has been on administrative leave for months after a Federal judge found him in contempt of court. The council can either reinstate him, or replace him, now the job is up for reappointment.

"It's kind of tough to make them come in-- many of them brand new-- and have them make very important decisions like that," commented Overcash. "We're going to give them a little time to ascertain the situation and make their minds up before we force them to take a vote on that."

He said it could take weeks, or they may even wait a few months, to make the decision about the police chief job.