Or­lando has new fire chief

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Tess Sheets

The Or­lando Fire Depart­ment’s new chief, Ben­jamin Barks­dale, said he en­vi­sions a more in­clu­sive cul­ture at the agency, and wants to grow its use of tech­nol­ogy while mak­ing strides to keep OFD em­ploy­ees healthy “both men­tally and phys­i­cally.”

Barks­dale laid out his plan for lead­ing the depart­ment at a swear­ing-in cer­e­mony Mon­day, mark­ing his of­fi­cial ap­point­ment as OFD’s 20th chief. He said his vi­sion was “sim­ple: We will con­tinue to build on the 134-year foun­da­tion by hav­ing a depart­ment that is di­verse and in­clu­sive.”

Barks­dale, who has logged more than 30 years in the fire ser­vice and pre­vi­ously was chief of the Prince George’s County Fire Depart­ment in Mary­land, re­places for­mer OFD Chief Rod­er­ick Wil­liams. Wil­liams re­signed in Fe­bru­ary af­ter the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­ni­ties Com­mis­sion found he ha­rassed and dis­crim­i­nated against a fe­male as­sis­tant chief. The ex-chief has dis­puted the ac­cu­sa­tions and filed an EEOC com­plaint against the depart­ment, al­leg­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, WESH-Chan­nel 2 re­ported.

Barks­dale was se­lected af­ter a month­s­long na­tion­wide search.

At the cer­e­mony Mon­day, Or­lando Mayor Buddy Dyer ac­knowl­edged it was a rar­ity for the city to bring on a chief from out­side the agency, but praised Barks­dale for a track record of hir­ing a di­verse group of em­ploy­ees in his pre­vi­ous lead­er­ship roles, say­ing he had en­cour­aged peo­ple “from all back­grounds to seek op­por­tu­ni­ties in fire ser­vice.”

Barks­dale over­saw thou­sands of em­ploy­ees in his pre­vi­ous post, Dyer said, and ad­vo­cated for ac­cess to men­tal health pro­grams for fire­fight­ers.

“Typ­i­cally, we don’t go out­side of the

RI­CARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Ben­jamin M. Barks­dale Jr. shakes hands af­ter be­ing sworn in as the City of Or­lando’s 20th fire chief dur­ing a change of com­mand cer­e­mony Mon­day at the Dr. Phillips Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

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