Crady selected new fire chief in Lebanon Junction

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Appointment does not come without some controversy

By Thomas Barr

 LEBANON JUNCTION - After some fiery times, the Lebanon Junction City Council and its fire department will try to bury any hatchets and begin a new future.

The council voted 5-1 recently to accept the firefighters’ nomination of Todd Crady as its new chief.

Crady will replace Mark Shumaker Jr., who was terminated recently by mayor James “Butch” Sweat.

The mayor, with the support of five of the six councilmembers, cited misuse of the city vehicle, failure to provide information to the auditor and failure to make an effort to collect reimbursements for fire runs made outside the city limits.

Shumaker denied the allegations.

Under the bylaws of the fire department, the firefighters must nominate a person to serve as chief and the council must approve that person.

Interim fire chief Kendall Coleman said the firefighters met on Tuesday evening.

After great debate, some of this was heated, Coleman said the majority of the volunteer fire department endorsed Crady.

At the end of this year, the firefighters would vote once again.

Following the affirmative vote, Sweat said he is willing to work and support anyone.

While everyone may not agree on every issue, Sweat asked that the chief and his firefighters show respect to all the elected officials.

He doesn’t want to hear about concerns being voiced by the department out on the streets.

If there is a question or a concern, Sweat said his phone is always available.

“I appreciate what you all do,” Sweat said of the firefighters.

Councilman Larry Dangerfield said that the elected officials need to also respect the firefighters.

He said it was time that all the city departments started to work together.

Coleman, who has served as fire chief in the past, agreed that it was time everyone worked as one.

While Dangerfield said the department has a number of very good young people getting involved, Coleman joked that as he gets a little older, he appreciates the younger ones.

Like Sweat, Coleman said that the past is the past and everyone needs to move forward.

“We’re done fighting,” said Coleman. “We want to move forward.”

He asked that if the council or mayor see or hear something that they don’t like or don’t understand, ask someone in the fire department before flying off the handle.

“Ask us,” said Coleman. “Call us.”

Councilman Tim Sanders said he was looking for Crady to do two things: keep nothing hidden from the council and set up meetings with all the other fire chiefs to let them know Lebanon Junction wants to work with everyone.

Sanders said if there is any city equipment at any person’s home, that needs to be retrieved.

Crady, a long-time member of the fire department, knows his role will be a difficult one.

However, he is looking forward to making the department better and providing the information the city needs.

Crady said he will work with the city clerks to make sure the billing system is in place to recoup money spent on out-of-city runs.

He also agreed to make sure the city officials receive their monthly reports and copies of incident sheets.

The new chief said he had some questions on the current billing forms. However, he asked questions and got the answers he needed.

Sweat said he has known Crady since the new chief was a little boy.

“I have confidence in Todd,” said Sweat. “He’ll do a good job.”

However, councilman and father of the chief, Mark Shumaker Sr., said that it wasn’t right that Sweat shut down his discussion on the matter during the Feb. 3 council meeting. He made a motion to go into executive session but could not get a second and the motion died.

The councilman said all he wanted to do was to present a full report that was the basis of the chief’s dismissal. He said the police report on the chief’s passing of a school bus was inaccurate and that dispatch records would show that his son was on a fire run at the time.

And he said that under state law, the mayor and council did not have the right to fire the chief. 

“I just wanted the council to have all the facts but they didn’t want to hear it,” said the councilman.

In voting no against Crady’s appointment, he said it was not personal against the new chief or the fire department.

“We need to support the entire fire department,” said Shumaker.