County picks new fire chief

LAWRENCEVILLE - A veteran firefighter was tapped to take over as Gwinnett's Fire Chief on Tuesday.

Commissioners appointed Bill Myers, who joined the department at the age of 22 and rose to the rank of assistant chief of operations.

Myers, who will receive a salary of $135,000, replaces Steve Rolader, a 33-year veteran who will retire at the end of the week.

Rolader was one of 52 members of the department to take a retirement incentive offered by the county in an attempt to trim its staff and budget.

Earlier this year, budget issues caused the county to leave two recently completed fire stations vacant.

"There's a difficulty because of the budget, but I'm very encouraged with the strength of our organization," Myers said, pointing out that Rolader worked on succession planning for years.

"People are ready to step up. They are full of new ideas and full of energy," Myers said. "I can't wait to see what that might bring about."

Chairman Charles Bannister said he spoke to many people in the department, and Myers was given high praise.

"He was chosen, by and large, by the employees he's been working with over the years," Bannister said. "He has shown his ability to lead and get the job done in every area he's been assigned."

Myers served in the U.S. Navy before joining the Fire Department in 1983. He attended the first paramedic program offered in the department and graduated from the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. He also holds a bachelor's degree in safety engineering and master's degree in public administration.

New County Administrator Glenn Stephens said Myers was the "perfect choice" to lead the department of 600 employees.

"He has risen through the ranks of the department from firefighter to assistant chief and now chief, gaining the deep respect of employees along the way," Stephens said. "I am impressed with Bill's devotion to the organization as reflected in his prudent, achievement-oriented management style of open communication and shared leadership responsibilities. Bill will be a valuable addition to our team of department directors and his appointment brings to our senior management team yet another person of great character who is dedicated to public service."

Myers lives in Lilburn with his wife Jami. They have two daughters, Jessi and Kadi.