James Hand

James Hand has been named interim fire chief in Athens.

James Hand has been named interim fire chief of Athens Fire & Rescue.

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks made the announcement today.

Hand will temporarily replace Chief Bryan Thornton, who will retire May 31 after serving 28 years as a paramedic and firefighter. 

Hand is starting his 19th year with the department. He has served as a firefighter, driver, inspector and, for the past seven years, fire marshal.

“We have a great department, and we want to continue to improve and provide the best services we possibly can,” Hand said. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the interim position.”

Marks said the city plans to open the application process for chief in July. By state law, the Athens City Council makes the decision on who will serve.

The council will wait until November — until after the Aug. 25 municipal election — to select and confirm a new fire chief. The council confirms several positions, such as fire chief, police chief and city clerk, the November after a municipal election.

The city likes to wait until after the new council is elected to select and appoint a department head like a fire chief to ensure the nominee will be approved. If the pre-election council were to select and appoint a fire chief before the election, the newly elected council — should it include new members — might not approve that person in November.

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