By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - City Manager Andrea Gardner introduced Sean Hughes as the city's new fire chief Friday.
"It is very much an honorable thing to be a part of the Copperas Cove Fire Department," said Hughes, addressing a crowd of about 40 people at City Hall.
Hughes, who has 28 years of emergency responder experience, will retire from the North Richland Hills Fire Department March 23 to take his new position in Cove on April 9.
Hughes succeeds Mike Baker, who retired as Cove's fire chief last month. Hughes' annual starting salary will be $95,000 and does not include a vehicle allowance.
Hughes is the acting emergency management coordinator and fire department public information officer for North Richland Hills, a city of about 63,000 people northeast of Fort Worth.
Starting his career in 1984 as a firefighter in Mansfield, Hughes joined the North Richland Hills Fire Department in January 1987.
Hughes said his experience working for North Richland Hills will aid him in serving Copperas Cove.
Because the city is in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, Hughes is familiar with mutual aid and automatic aid agreements such as the ones Copperas Cove operates under to help suppress fires for its neighbors.
"Coming from a county with 42 cities, I have a history of bringing together resources," said Hughes. "I am always looking for ways to enhance response times with neighboring cities."
North Richland Hills also offers an ambulance service like Copperas Cove's.
Before announcing Hughes as the new fire chief, Gardner explained how the city selected him.
After Baker announced his retirement in early January and left in February, the city started a monthlong interview process.
The 32 applicants were narrowed down to 13, who interviewed with two panels. Three finalists interviewed with a panel composed of a Houston fire chief, and several local fire chiefs: Jack Collier, Harker Heights; Bill Jack Road, Fort Hood; Lonzo Wallace, Temple; and Bruce Pritchard, Belton.
The panel gave recommendations, but the finalists also met council members, city staff and firefighters during a mock news conference and meet-and-greet before Hughes was selected.
Mayor John Hull welcomed Hughes to the city Friday. "We are just proud to have you."
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.