When LeRoy Smith came to Holly Springs to interview for the open fire chief position, he and his oldest daughter drove around the town. He recalls seeing families playing in their yards, people walking dogs and a lemonade stand. He and his wife had always talked about eventually retiring in the Carolinas.
“I was sold,” Smith said, adding that, in researching Holly Springs, he saw that the town was a family-friendly small community.
Smith was chosen from more than 50 applicants. He began working earlier this month as the fire chief of the town’s 37-member department. He currently lives at the fire station during the week and returns to his family over the weekends. His family is to move to town late next month, he says.
Previously employed at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Smith was responsible for the fire and rescue department’s operations, training and safety. His experience with the department at the airport is in addition to 22 years of experience with the fire/EMS department in Prince George’s County, MD. Smith holds an associate’s degree in fire science from Columbia Southern University in Alabama and a bachelor’s degree in fire administration from Waldorf College in Iowa.
Smith said he became a firefighter because he wanted to make a difference. When he was in high school, he said he witnessed a vehicular accident.
“I watched as the firefighters worked as a team,” he said, speaking of how the firefighters extinguished a fire and extracted victims. “Their dedication, hard work and teamwork left a lasting impression on me.”
Smith said his favorite part of the job is the variety.
“Every day can bring something different,” he said. “That variety and challenge … inspires me to learn and to teach and move forward.”
He spoke of Holly Springs’s exponential growth and said that upcoming challenges for the fire department include keeping up with the changes in town, which include additional apartment buildings, a large new shopping center and assisted living housing.
“My goals obviously are to continue the already exceptional service and move forward with an aggressive training program,” he said.
Smith added that he wants to work on a proactive fire prevention program, meeting residents and making sure they have smoke detectors and understand how to prevent incidents. He said he also wants to institute a more aggressive training program, update apparatus and technology, and improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations as needed.
When asked about the SBI investigation into the town’s former fire chief, Smith said, “The past is the past, and we’re going to leave the past behind us – good, bad, indifferent – and just move forward.
Smith thanked the town manager and human resourced director for the opportunity to serve as fire chief. He said he also was thankful for assistant fire chiefs Jones and Ashworth, and all the members of the fire department, for making him feel welcome.
“It’s an honor to have been selected to lead the Holly Springs Fire Department,” he said. “I’ve witnessed in my short tenure that the Holly Springs firefighters are very dedicated and have great pride in how they serve the residents in Holly Springs and the surrounding areas. It’s my sincere privilege to be a member of this department.”