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Edwards named interim fire chief for Bradenton

BRADENTON — City Council unanimously named Deputy Chief of Operations Chuck Edwards the fire department’s interim chief during a special meeting today.

Edwards, who has 22 years of experience with the department, will replace late Fire Chief Mark Souders, who died of an apparent heart attack Jan. 5.

Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo, who served as fire chief from 1980 to 1991, nominated Edwards over Deputy Chief of Administration David Ezell because of Edwards’ seniority. Ezell has been with the department for 17 years.

Edwards and Ezell have been sharing leadership duties since Souders’ death.

“There was a leaning that we stay in house,” Gallo said. “We thought we needed to appoint one so we could take our time reviewing the applications we’ve received. It’s just good business.”

It was Ezell who conducted a press conference on the day Souders died and took the lead public relations role as the city prepared a full-honors service.

Gallo said only Edwards and Ezell have applied for the chief’s position. He said Edwards will not necessarily have the inside track to the full-time job.

“You have to have a person responsible,” Gallo said. “If we didn’t, it would be like having four hands on a steering wheel.”

Council also passed a motion to post the fire chief position within the department for three days. Council members then will begin candidate interviews with the hope of naming a permanent fire chief early next month.

Souders was Bradenton’s fire chief for 14 years. He was hired from Cedar Hammock Fire and Rescue, where he had worked for 20 years.