In an emotional speech Wednesday, outgoing St. Lucie County Fire Chief Buddy Emerson defended his actions during his two year tenure. “My contributions and the contributions of this team have helped the organization become successful.”
Some on the District Fire Board came to the chief’s defense during the special meeting.
“I am completely disappointed by Mr. Kozac’s letter and our current circumstances," said Board member, and Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec.
That letter came from the local firefighters union, saying Chief Emerson had lost his troops. The union also filed a complaint stating the chief had put firefighters at risk during Hurricane Irma by calling some in, then sending them home during the storm.
Chief Emerson had planned to retire February 28, but his request to retire immediately was approved unanimously. By a 5-2 vote, District Chief Nate Spera was then named interim chief.
“Part of our strategic initiatives are internal communications and that’s what we’re going to focus on moving forward," said the interim chief.
The union was also upset over how contributions were being made to its healthcare fund.
“It’s ultimately what we wanted to see. We didn’t want to make any negativeness to the fire district. We’re happy with what we do here and that’s ultimately what we look for," said Shane Kozac, President of IAFF 1377.
The outgoing chief said he will leave with his integrity intact knowing he did the right thing even when it was painful.
“What I had hoped is I would take the tough times, the tough decisions for them knowing my time is limited, then leave," said Chief Emerson.
A selection process will begin to find a new chief. Interim Chief Spera says he is interested in the post full-time.