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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Long-time Alachua firefighter becomes fire chief

<p>The Alachua County Commission unanimously confirmed Harold Theus as the county's new fire chief.</p>

The Alachua County Commission unanimously confirmed Harold Theus as the county's new fire chief.

In 1994, Harold Theus began as an Alachua County firefighter with a simple philosophy: to help the community.

Twenty-five years later, he became the county’s new fire chief.

The Alachua County Commission unanimously confirmed Theus, 50, following a recommendation from the county manager. Since Nov. 30, Theus has served as interim fire chief after the former fire chief Bill Northcutt’s retirement.

The county firefighters union, Fire Rescue Professionals of Alachua County, endorsed Theus and recommended him to the county manager. Robert Sullivan, the union president, said they selected Theus because he is well-educated and prepared for the position.

“He is the very first fire chief in Alachua County to come up through our own ranks, and that’s exciting,” Sullivan said.

Theus’ salary will be $129,395.55, a 10 percent increase from Theus’ previous salary, said Heather Akpan, the county human resources director. Former fire chief Bill Northcutt had a salary of $141,313.33 before his retirement.

Theus told the commission he was humbled and honored to receive the position, and he looks forward to the opportunity to serve the county.

“I believe that we can provide the best service to our citizens and visitors by having a well-equipped, well-trained and well-compensated staff,” Theus said.

The county manager’s office interviewed six candidates from a pool of applications, said Carl Smart, an assistant county manager. The county manager, Michele Lieberman, chose Theus because of his community relationships, previous leadership and long service to the county.

Theus began his service as a firefighter emergency medical technician in 1994, and most recently, he became deputy fire chief in 2015, Lieberman said.

At the meeting, Commissioner Ken Cornell said Theus has offered solutions and increased diversity in the department.

“Whenever I speak to you, I always hear an approach that obviously puts the public’s safety first, but more importantly uses the resources that we have,” Cornell said to Theus at the meeting.

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Commissioner Charles Chestnut said it was impressive for Theus to begin at the bottom and reach the top as fire chief.

As fire chief, Theus’ philosophy extends beyond just doing the bare minimum of his job.

“I am proud to be the person now that will be leading them,” he said. “The amazing things that they’re able to accomplish with the resources that we have is truly remarkable.”

The Alachua County Commission unanimously confirmed Harold Theus as the county's new fire chief.

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