Ernie Rhodes replaces David Frazier who served as the West County EMS & Fire Protection District fire chief since 2004. As previously reported by Patch, Frazier has been with the fire district since 1987, but was "reassigned" from fire chief to deputy chief of logistics in June.
Since then, the fire district has been operating without an official chief, but after a local and national search, the fire board announced Rhodes as the district's new chief Thursday evening.
Rhodes comes to West County from the City of St. Charles where he served as fire chief for nine years. There he managed 84 personnel and a $10.5 million dollar budget, according to the West County fire board.
"I know fire services really well. I know every aspect of the job and that's what I really bring to the table," Rhodes tells Patch.
Rhodes said he expects his new role to begin Oct. 1. He brings extensive experience to the position, including 32 years in the fire service and has been a licensed paramedic for 26 years. During Thursday's meeting, the fire board also pointed out that Rhodes was deployed to Ground Zero after the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since 9/11, Rhodes has been deployed to a number of national disasters. He continues to serve on a national task force as Task Force Leader for Missouri Task Force 1 and he is a Task Force Leader for the St. Louis Metro Urban Search and Rescue System.
Patch readers can learn more about Rhodes background, experience and and awards in the press release included in the PDF portion of this article.
Richard Rognan, chairman of the West County EMS and Fire Protection Distrct board, tells Patch 29 candidates were under serious consideration for the position, but ultimatley Rhodes was offered the job because of his vision and credentials.
"His energy and and vision for the future is what we needed," Rognan said. "Keep in mind there were 29 well qualified individuals, but when you look at Ernie's credentials."
Rhodes tells Patch it was what West County had to offer that attracted him to the opening.
"I think West County is very forward thinking and I really like that. They embrace change," Rhodes said. "I looked at the opportunity that was here in St. Louis County and with the vision of the board...there's just a huge opportunity for some of the passions that I enjoy, one of them is education. I've been teaching within the fire service for many, many years and when I heard they built the Center for Excellence that really got my attention."
He said that overall the move was a better "career move and "a better opportunity" for him.
"I think I can serve at a higher capacity," Rhodes explained.
The first item on his agenda is getting to know the people who work for the fire district, but Rhodes said he doesn't expect a lot of upset.
"I think the people are the most important resource. I want to know the business of the district. Look at the strategic plan, look at basically every aspect of the district," Rhodes explained. "I really don't foresee a lot of shake-ups and changes because these folks are really ahead of the curve."
Frazier was not at Thursday's meeting for the announcement of his replacement.
The West County fire district serves a number of cities, including Town and Country, Manchester, Ballwin, Winchester, Twin Oaks, portions of Valley Park and nearby parts of unincorporated St. Louis County.
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