The city of Waco announced Friday five finalists to replace Fire Chief Bobby Tatum Jr., who retired at the start of the year.

The city has received 46 applications from across the country since Tatum announced his retirement in October, according to a press release Friday. The five finalists will be in Waco on Monday for interviews and tours, city spokesman Larry Holze said.

“They are coming in Monday, and we knew we were going to have to release their names at some point and they all said it was no problem, so we went ahead and released their names,” Holze said. “I am giving them a 2-hour tour of Waco on Monday together.”

The finalists are:

  • Juan Adame, who was Sugar Land fire chief from 2009 through his retirement in January 2019. He also served as Austin fire chief from 2006 to 2008 and Corpus Christi fire chief from 1988 to 2006. The city’s press release lists him as having 25 years of fire service experience, though other sources, including Sugar Land’s press release on his retirement, indicate he has 30 years of experience as a chief alone. City officials were unable to clarify the discrepancy Friday.
  • Thomas Beasley, who has been Memphis, Tennessee’s, division chief of training since 2016. He has 27 years of fire service experience, according to the city press release.
  • Jonathan McMahan, who was College Station fire chief from 2017 until his retirement in January “to pursue other opportunities,” according to The Eagle newspaper. He has 15 years of fire service experience, according to the city press release.
  • Richard Potter, who is deputy fire chief in Pueblo, Colorado. The city’s press release states he served as acting chief in Pueblo from 2016 until last year, has been deputy chief since last year and has 29 years of fire service experience. Coverage by The Pueblo Chieftain, however, states he served as interim chief only from April to August of last year, stepping up temporarily from the deputy chief position.
  • Gregory Summers, who was fire chief in Little Rock, Arkansas , from 2009 to 2018. He has 34 years of fire service experience, according to the city press release.

Waco fire Lt. Phillip Burnett, president of the Waco Professional Firefighters Association Local 478, said he is excited to have an excellent pool of candidates interested in the job. He said he looks forward to developing a good relationship with the next chief and the city.

“We hope to have an open door policy and continue to build a stronger department with the heads of both organizations working together with a common goal to benefit the citizens of Waco,” Burnett said. “We will work together to make it the greatest fire department in the state of Texas.”

The next fire chief will lead a department with 203 civil service positions and five civilian positions. The department was recently recognized for achieving a Class 1 rating under the Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification. The city has had an ISO rating of Class 2 since 2009 and was previously a Class 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Holze initially declined to release names of the finalists for fire chief after the Tribune-Herald made a public information request for that information Monday.

Finalists for government positions are available for public review and release with few exceptions, according to the Texas Public Information Act.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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