The Columbus city council Tuesday unanimously voted to promote Columbus Fire & Rescue Chief of Training Duane Hughes to assistant fire chief.
Hughes, who was present at the meeting, will take the new position effective immediately. He will replace former assistant chief Mark Ward, who retired in April.
Hughes has served with CFR for 21 years. He said he’s held his current position as training chief for six years.
For Hughes, Tuesday’s promotion was the result of the faith the city put in him when he was first hired.
“Twenty-one years ago the former city council gave me the opportunity to be employed with Columbus Fire & Rescue because they obviously saw something in me,” Hughes said. “So in a sense, this is a vindication of that vision that they had.”
Hughes said CFR will appoint another training chief, but for the moment he will continue to hold those duties through the transition.
His new salary is $58,700, according to Joe Dillon, the city’s public information officer.
As he moves into his new position, Hughes said he wants to be open to ideas that stem from CFR’s firefighters. He said that’s different than how things were when he started.
“Back then in ’95, it was, ‘Do as we say and don’t speak unless spoken to,'” Hughes said. “If you valued your job, you did that. We live in a different society now with the exchange of ideas. … When we have time to discuss and have conversation about different ways of doing things, we’re going to allow that.”
Hughes said he also wants to help Fire Chief Martin Andrews implement his plans for CFR.
“I have the position to enact all the things that our fire chief has set forth for the department and actually help him move forward on that vision,” Hughes said. “It will be hard work, but I’m excited. I’m ready to meet the challenge.”
The council approved an application for a $215,752 grant for terminal apron rehabilitation work at the Columbus-Lowndes County Airport. City engineer Kevin Stafford said 90 percent of the grant is paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration, 5 percent by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and 5 percent by the city and county.
The council also approved a $41,792 engineering contract to Neel-Schaffer for the project. The contract is included in the grant cost.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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