Orlando has new fire chief
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
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.