There are three horses: one that tries to outrun them all, another you have to kick to get running, and a third that runs steadily in the middle. That third horse, is Chief Byron Teates, or so Deputy Chief Lee Whitehurst said.
“That was always Byron. He was steady and that steady hand was what we needed,” Whitehurst said of the newly retired fire chief.
Monday, dozens gathered to honor Teates’ last day in the office as chief of the East Manatee Fire Rescue . He is retiring from a career in the district that started in 1984.
“I really am just very honored and flattered,” Teates said. “Tonight was a big deal.”
A big deal indeed. Teates was commended for bringing the department out of debt and raising the department’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating from a six to a four. A lower rating translates to insurance premium savings for consumers.
Teates was presented with a folded flag that had been flown over the governor’s office, a proclamation from Manatee County Commissioners and was highly praised by the East Manatee Board of Fire Commissioners.
Teates was a strong, steady leader through the growth of the department and development of the community. The fire station itself started as an old pole barn leased from a farmer where the Starbucks Coffee on State Road 64 now stands, Whitehurst said. Over time, the department expanded from a single full-time employee and one fire station to six with property for two more -- and a paid staff of 74 people.
“We’re not going to stop because the chief is retiring, we’re going to continue to grow and change,” Whitehurst said.
Former and current chiefs and commissioners from other fire districts attended and wished Teates well in retirement.
Thanked for her role as his support, Teates’ wife Cathy, received a bouquet of flowers and placed a new pin on her husband during the ceremony.
To top off the night, the new fire station at 803 60th Court Street East where the ceremony was held, was dedicated to Teates.
For the “ribbon cutting” ceremony, two ends of a ceremonial hose were released, and visitors were escorted into the building.
The “new building smell” was still fresh inside Station 2 when they opened the doors for the open house. Dozens of people gathered inside to celebrate Teates’ career.
One of those inside was Battalion Shift Commander Stacey Bailey who started his career as a volunteer firefighter in 1993 and has worked with Teates over the years.
Bailey took over the shift commander position from Teates, who he said ran a tight ship. It was known as “by the book B-shift.”
Bailey said he is thankful for all he’s learned from Teates. Most recently, he used hazmat training he received from the chief to handle the gas spill on Interstate 75 last week.
Whitehurst will stand in as acting chief.