Bunky Partridge begins new city job today
By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Nov. 3, 2003
Former Meridian Fire Chief H.C. "Bunky" Partridge officially began work today as head of the city's training center and the Department of Homeland Security.
The city is organizing a retirement party for Partridge today in honor of his 29 years of service with the city's fire department.
Partridge will now turn his attention to the city's 99-acre training center on Sand Flat Road. Partridge met with The Meridian Star editorial board last week to discuss his new job.
The Meridian Star: How are your day-to-day duties going to change in your new job?
Bunky Partridge: Mostly with personnel. For the past few years I have been dealing with 120 personnel. I will have one person that works for me in my new job. It will be myself and my secretary.
My job is going to be doing all the training in the city of Meridian. That's not just anti-terrorism training, that's all the training for anything public works, community development, police department, anything. Because if we have a major incident in the city of Meridian all of us are going to be there, so we all need to be trained with how to handle the situation.
And just because I'm head of the training doesn't mean that I'll be the trainer. I'm going to bring in training for the different departments. I'm going to the department heads and ask them what they lack, what type of outside training would they like to have and then go out and try and bring those people in to do the training.
That's what we've been lacking through the years is everybody has been training on their own thing. Somebody trains here, somebody else trains there. My job is to bring everybody together. I'm also the head of the seven-county Regional Response Team, which is going to play into that. That's going to bring more training for the local area that's going to be paid for by MEMA (the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency), which is part of Homeland Security.
I'm also going to be going out and getting grants for the city of Meridian that we can use for training and equipment. I'm just looking forward to my new job. I think I met all the goals that I had personally set for myself as fire chief and now it's time to do something else.
The Star: Explain the different phases of the training center and how each is funded.
Partridge: The Southeastern Transportation Safety Center is the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) grant that supports that type of training. We cover six southern states, training all emergency personnel on the rail rescue. This is not just firefighters. If we have a train derailment, the firefighters are not going to be the first on the scene the police officers are.
And they've come to come from all over to get this training. For example, at the last class we had three firefighters from Hinesville, Ga., come down.
That FRA grant is for $350,000 that funds that training. I have some additional grants from MEMA to buy equipment with. I probably have $400,000 in MEMA grant to buy equipment for the Regional Response Team that we can use here locally.
The Star: When Three I originally controlled the training at the training center, they talked about making money from all the different emergency workers from around the South training there. Will the city expect to create a steady stream of revenue from the training center?
Partridge: It sure can because we're bringing all of these outside people in to train here. Now we're not going to charge for the city or the county. We do expect to create a revenue and we have 99 acres out there at the training center that we can work with.
The Star: Do you expect it to ever get to the point where it can operate solely on its revenue and not rely on the grants?
Partridge: Yes I do. Because if the grant dries up, then my job dries up and I'm definitely thinking about that. But we will be able to create a good revenue from it.
The Star: Will you technically be considered separate from the city now that you're heading the training center, even though the training center is controlled by the city?
Partridge: No, I will be a department head like everyone else. I'm not going to be directly over the fire department and police department in day-to-day operations, but if we have a major event we will have a command post and I will be in charge at that time. I'll bring everyone together and we'll all work together.
The Star: What about if there's a major emergency outside of the city limits?
Partridge: Lauderdale County has their own homeland security director, which is Clarence Butler. That's the way I understand it. We would go out there and provide mutual aid with them, but they would be in charge. But I'm sure they'll want the experts to do what they need to do. We're all going to work together. Everyone has their expertise in different fields and will all work together.
The Star: What do you think the direction of the training center will be now that it's in the city's control? And what are the advantages of the city being in control, rather than the nonprofit Three I?
Partridge: I feel like as a city we can control what kind of training goes on out there. You will have a director out there that can answer the phones and go out there and get the grants. With the relationships I've built around the state and around the United States in training, I think it will be positive for the center. I can pick up the phone and call other chiefs around the state and talk about the training that we offer there. So I see it as being better off under the city's control.
The Star: How does that differ from what Three I could have done?
Partridge: Basically the relationships that the city has built up and the reputation that we have as being the finest trained that there is. And I think that's the biggest thing that we offer that they couldn't.