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Mayor defends fire chief's pay raise

By By Fredie Carmichael/staff writer
Jan. 10, 2002
Mayor John Robert Smith on Wednesday defended his decision to give Fire Chief Bunky Partridge a 15 percent pay raise in October, calling it "most justified" and the "right decision."
Partridge saw his yearly pay jump from $54,329 to $62,329 in mid-October even though city officials said they couldn't afford to give more pay to other employees, including firefighters and police officers.
Smith's comments come two weeks after about 50 firefighters showed up at city council meeting and applauded local activist Bill McBride for speaking out against the raise and about the low morale of Meridian firefighters.
T-shirts made by a local firefighter soon surfaced after that meeting, mocking Partridge's raise. The shirts said, among other things, "We work hard so he doesn't have to."
Local firefighters have since expressed more disdain about the department losing qualified firefighters than they have about the chief's pay raise. They say morale is at an all-time low.
Smith disagreed.
Smith said he met with local firefighters about 10 days ago and has obtained a list of their concerns.
Smith said he would present his findings to "those individuals representing the firefighter's union."
Fason said while he was glad his members were able to express their concerns with the mayor, they are taking a "wait and see" approach in his response.
City officials have given two different versions of why Partridge got the raise. The city's human resources director, and now the mayor, said the additional money was based on additional duties related to a new regional fire training project under direction of a non-profit corporation. The city's chief administrative officer previously told reporters the raise was necessary to entice Partridge to remain in Meridian after he was offered a similar job in Hattiesburg.