AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Here at Fire Headquarters, Chief Antonio Burden is now the man in charge of the fire department. He recited poetry during his swearing in ceremony but refused to answer questions about the controversial process that put him in charge.
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With the oath of office Antonio Burden becoming Augusta’s new Fire Chief and city officials saying ending the controversy surrounding his selection.
“This is a new day for the city of Augusta. I think the swearing in ceremony certainly helps provide that celebratory atmosphere that’s necessary for us in the city,” said Mayor Hardie Davis.
But not all celebrated Burden’s selection. He wasn’t the highest rated candidate. And when named finalist the city did not release the names of any others prompting a media lawsuit the city lost.
But Burden’s message to the fire department is one of unity.
“To look beyond our faults and what may separate us and reach for the highest expression of our humanity as we harness the power of, we, the power of unity,” said Burden in prepared remarks.
The Augusta Professional Firefighters Association spoke out publicly against Burden, that’s now in the past.
What’s the hangover, heartburn from the selection process?
“There isn’t one. We got to close that chapter, it’s time to move forward and advance the department,” said Philip Brigham, President of the Augusta Professional Firefighters Association.
Burden shed no light on how he was impacted by the controversy, he took no press questions in the commission chambers, and was ushered away when approached afterwards.
“He knows he’s going to have to deal with the public so hopefully everything goes well,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Bobby Wiliams. “He took no questions today, we don’t know if he can take the heat.”
“You know we’ll see we’ll see because Augusta is a different type of place,” said the Pro-Tem.
Burden replaces Chief Chris James who was forced out in December he becomes the 18th Chief in the history of the Augusta Fire Department.