MANATEE -- The West Manatee Fire & Rescue District has a new chief.
Capt. Tom Sousa will succeed Chief Andy Price, who retires in April 2015. Sousa, with WMFR eight years, was unanimously selected by the district Governing Board during a meeting Sept. 18.
Sousa was chosen over Deputy Chief Brett Pollock.
Sousa, 57, said he felt good about being selected.
"(I look forward to) just carrying on with the work that Chief Price has done and building the department from 2000 when the West Side Fire Department and Anna Maria Fire Control District merged," he said. "We're still growing. We're still a relatively young fire department so we're progressing."
Price said the choice for his successor is a fine one.
"I've known him for more than 30 years. He was previously a deputy chief of the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department," Price said Thursday. "He has all the skill sets to fill my position without missing a beat."
Price said the transition period won't begin until early 2015 since there's still a lot of work to be done this year.
"It will take several months of getting him up to speed with the budgeting and all the things that I work with that he doesn't work with," he said. "He's a sharp enough guy. He's going to pick it up really quick."
Sousa will take over as chief May 1.
"We have a great group of guys that are highly trained. We have a great relationship with the other districts in the county and we want to maintain those relationships," Sousa said.
Sousa said he'd like to improve the effectiveness of basic life support, specifically for people who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest.
"I think there's something we can do there to improve survival rates and keep operating costs down and be as cost-effective as we can," he said.
The multiple-stage application process was grueling, including a research project, leaderless group exercise and oral interview.
The JTS Association of Bradenton was hired to assist the fire district with the process. Sousa said it wasn't the first time he's undergone an assessment, but that he learned a lot from this one.
Randy Cooper, who serves on the district Governing Board Commissioners, said he felt both candidates were qualified and noted Pollock plans to retire next year.
"The fact that Brett Pollock is retiring soon did have a major influence," he said. "Had that situation been different, then the decision might have been different."
Cooper said this is an exciting time for the district, which just purchased a new fire engine to replace one nearing the end of its useful life. There are plans to donate the older engine to Manatee Technical Institute Fire Science Academy to help train firefighters, Cooper wrote in an email earlier this week.
"This is just another chapter for our fire district -- another picture to hang on the wall," he said.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.