Shealy Honored To Be Newberry Fire Chief

 In Local News

Making sure the city’s firefighters are equipped with the proper training and tools needed to offer Newberry’s citizens the absolute best service that can be provided is one of Chief Gene Shealy’s goals as the new fire chief for the City of Newberry. Shealy took his oath of office on Thursday, June 23 at the Newberry Firehouse Conference Center.

Shealy began working for the city’s wastewater plant in 2003. And at that time, said he had never really imagined himself with a career in the fire service, let alone as fire chief.

“My dad spent 35 years working for the city’s water plant and I knew what the city had to offer as far as a stable job, retirement and it had looked out for my family for so long,” he said. “I knew it would be a good opportunity.”

Shealy attended Newbery public schools, graduating from Newberry High School to attend Piedmont Technical College and later, Columbia College.

“I studied business management at Piedmont Technical College and got my Bachelor of Arts degree in Disaster and Emergency Management from Columbia College,” he said.

While in school at PTC, Shealy said he wanted to get his foot in the door in municipal government and said he truly enjoyed his time at the wastewater plant. However, he felt that he longed for a sense of training for a common goal.

While doing fire extinguisher training in his current position, Shealy said he discussed the fire service with the firefighter on site.

“I loved the physical challenge of the job,” he said. “The aspect of team comradery, physical demand and the fact that every day was going to be different. It piqued my interest.”

From there, Shealy said he put in an application for the department.

“It was a very competitive interview,” he said. “I was very fortunate that Chief Joe Palmer gave me that chance.”

Shealy started with the Newberry Fire Department in 2005, attended and later graduated the South Carolina Fire Academy. He was promoted to engineer in 2008 and later promoted to senior engineer in the same year. In 2012, he was promoted to lieutenant on shift.

Two years later, in 2014, an opportunity presented itself with a partnership between the city and Newberry County for a Recruitment and Retention Coordinator position, which held the rank of captain. Shealy held that position until last month.

“I love working with people and the sense of training for ‘game day,’ sort of like a sporting event,” he said. “We all have to be on the same page to make sure we have a good outcome when an incident occurs.”

Throughout his career, Shealy says he’s had the opportunity for some of the best mentors. For the first five to six years of his career, working with retired Captain Blake Davis and Captain Tim Swygert, he said who helped teach him not only how to perform tactically, but how to grow and mature as a person in the fire service. Shealy also thanks retired Captain Burt Mohler for helping prepare him in different ways for the same tasks.

“All of them are great friends to this day,” he said.

For hiring him and being a great mentor, Shealy said former Chief Joe Palmer has been able to advise him in taking big leaps that he’s encountered within the fire service.

And for leading him, teaching him and showing him a side of the fire service he had not seen before, Shealy credits former Chief Keith Minick. Working daily at the firehouse is different than doing shift work, Shealy said and he thanked Minick for showing him all of the operations and different challenges that one can face, which he said has prepared him for his current role as chief.

Focusing on the Future

Looking ahead, Shealy said he has a few goals starting in his role as fire chief, the first being focusing internally on the department’s firefighters.

“We’ve had a lot of attrition over the last few years with retirements and promotions,” he said. “We have new firefighters coming in that need a lot of guidance and training.”

Preparing young firefighters for their next steps to become seasoned firefighters and engineers Shealy said must be done quickly, but responsibly and with the right training.

“We have to condition and continue to promote leadership training for our current leaders, so they continue to grow and be set up for success when they lead the station,” he said.

Constantly looking at the changes in technology, Shealy said is another goal.
Fires change each year, Shealy said because of construction changes each year.

“This changes the dynamics of fire and our dynamics as we fight fire,” he said.
Shealy said giving firefighters the tools they need to perform their job is crucial as the City of Newberry and their coverage area grows.

More About Shealy

When he’s not working, Shealy said he enjoys golfing, hunting, cooking and enjoying the outdoors. He also enjoys gardening. If given the chance, he said he enjoys getting away from the busy hustle of life and gathering his thoughts in a secluded area such as the mountains or the beaches on the coast.

“That’s the great thing about Newberry,” he said. “We’re about one and a half hours from whatever adventure you want to take.”

Shealy said he is always up for a road trip and enjoys spending time with his family, whenever he can. Shealy is married to Jessica Beam Shealy and the couple lives in the city.

Working as a volunteer basketball coach, with youth in the city’s junior volunteer firefighter program, as well as a mentoring program at Mid-Carolina Middle School is something Shealy also says he enjoys as it helps him feel more involved with the Newberry community.

“I am humbled and honored to be in the position I’m in,” he said. “It is an absolute honor to serve the community I was born and grew up in.”