Sixteen years on the job, Anthony Goode moved through the ranks quickly, and is now the 12th Chief of Fire for the Wilmington Fire Department.
The 39-year-old took his oath of office, Tuesday, inside council chambers at the city/county building before family, his fellow firefighters, police officers and Mayor Dennis P. Williams.
“Today, I don’t celebrate my achievements. I celebrate being honored with the leadership and legacy of a role that represents the men and women of the Wilmington Fire Dept.,” said Chief Goode. “While facing challenges that face the fire service as a whole, we will stand together. We will work [to] make everybody’s situation better, not only the people that we serve, but our own.”
A huge challenge Goode faces is the expiration of a FEMA grant that currently pays for 13 firefighter positions. Goode says the city has asked the federal government for a two-year extension, but says, either way, layoffs are not an option.
“Right now we’re on a skeleton crew and it makes it very difficult to get the job done,” said Goode. “We’re gonna have to take and put the focus on a redirection for the city and that is public safety.”
A sentiment Mayor Williams, a former police officer and former state representative, adamantly reiterated.
“I am not gonna lay public safety off, we’ll find another way to fund everything else, and I’m gonna stay true to that commitment… We’ll cut contracts, we’ll find waste in the city. I’m sure we did, just like when I had a $800 million deficit with the state.”
During his interview with WHYY, the mayor alluded to knowing where he can find $300-thousand, but is remaining tight-lipped for now.
Meanwhile, Capt. Christine Dunning was also supposed to be sworn in today as the city’s new Chief of Police. However, the mayor’s staff said Capt. Dunning was called away for a family emergency and would not be sworn in as scheduled.
However, the man she replaces, Chief Michael Szczerba, retired yesterday. After 34 years, Szczerba is Wilmington’s longest serving police chief. He was appointed in January 2001 by then incoming Mayor James Baker. Baker praised Szczerba’s time on the force calling him “a dedicated public servant and a loyal citizen of Wilmington.”