McComb hires first female fire chief

MCCOMB – McComb hired its first female fire chief Tuesday, taking what one city selectman called “a humongous step forward.”

Jean Saxton Frye, an arson investigator with the Jackson Fire Department, replaces interim Chief Billy Joe Nettles and will start Nov. 30.

“Certainly for the city of McComb to select a female fire chief is a humongous step forward,” Selectman David Myers said after the 4-2 vote to hire Frye. “I think she's well qualified for the job.”

The four selectmen who voted for Frye called her the most qualified candidate. Those who did not said the city's next fire chief should have been a member of the department like Nettles.

Nettles, a former assistant chief, was promoted to lead the department following the departure of former fire chief Vernell Felder. His supporters said he was a known quantity with decades of experience in the department.

“I don't know her from Adam or whether she can put out a fire,” Selectman Wade Lamb said in an article at www.enterprise-journal.com. “… It's tough to vote on a piece of paper.”

Frye was nominated for the job after a committee received 25 applications. Five were from within the department and 13 met or exceeded the qualifications.

Officials said the group rated applicants' qualifications, interviewed them and concluded that Frye was the best choice.

Among Frye’s qualifications were an associate’s degree, the completion of a graduate executive development program, national certification in fire and arson investigation and 14 years experience as a firefighter.

She also is qualified to operate firefighting equipment, is a certified law enforcement officer in Mississippi, a deputy fire marshal and will receive a bachelor’s degree in spring 2008.

“I’m sure it was a hard decision for the board not to pick someone from inside, but sometimes the inside is not good as well,” Myers said. “Most certainly she has the background … to head the city of McComb’s fire department.”

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Information from: Enterprise-Journal, http://www.enterprise-journal.com