Weaverville – Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey announced Wednesday (Sept. 7th) that she has named Scottie Harris as Weaverville’s next Fire Chief. Chief Harris currently serves as the fire chief for the Northern Wake Fire Department. He was also fire chief for the Town of Black Mountain from May of 2019 until March of this year, when he left to go to Northern Wake.
Harris, 51, will be stepping into the position left vacant when longtime Weaverville Fire Chief Ted Williams stepped down back in May of this year amid turmoil at the department caused by firefighters’ salary compensation. Williams left to join the City of Hendersonville as their fire marshal.
According to the Town of Weaverville’s press release, “Harris has served in fire and emergency services for 30 years, with the last 18 years in senior management roles in municipal, county, and combined fire departments, as well as serving eight years in contract fire services at U.S. Army installations in the Middle East and U.S. Navy support facilities in Diego Garcia.”
“Chief Harris earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Waldorf University, a Bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration, and an Associate’s degree in Fire Services from Columbia Southern University, and has an extensive resume of fire and emergency services certifications.” Harris is leaving the Northern Wake Fire Department, where he is chief, to take the Weaverville job.
Coffey stated, “We were fortunate to interview a number of highly qualified individuals. My goals for recruiting for the Fire Chief position included that of hiring an experienced and professional leader with strong communication skills and the ability to provide visionary leadership and with consistent qualities of integrity, accountability, and honesty. I believe we found this leader in Chief Harris.”
Time as Black Mountain Fire Chief
According to a March 2nd, 2022 article by the Black Mountain newspaper, Valley Echo, Harris, a “Triangle area native,” moved to Northern Wake to “provide support for his parents.”
“This position puts me closer to mom and dad, who are both having major health issues,” Harris told the Echo when leaving Black Mountain. “This decision was not one I took lightly, but I always tell my employees ‘family first,’ and I need to be there for them. It was a hard decision and not a hard decision at the same time.”
The Tribune asked Coffey if the “health issues” that took Harris back to his home area had changed. Coffey told the Tribune, “He moved to be closer to his father, who was in declining health. His father has since passed away.
Harris told the Echo about leaving Black Mountain. “We’ve accomplished a lot, and we have a great team here,” Harris said. “It’s not easy to leave.”
Black Mountain Town Manager Josh Harrold told the Echo, “Chief Harris has been everything I was looking for in a fire chief when we hired him a few years ago.” “He came in with a focus on building department morale and he’s done an outstanding job.”
Building department morale is something that is undoubtedly needed at Weaverville. The Tribune has reported low morale due to what fire personnel see as a deficiency in pay by the town compared to other town employees.
Harris is looking forward to the Weaverville job
Harris told the Tribune, “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I spent nearly three years at Black Mountain fire Department and the only reason I left the area was due to my dads health issues. I was blessed to land a job closer to home that allowed me to have more time with him, and he passed away in July from cancer.”
He went on to say, “I believe in faith and timing, and once he passed away, the timing and opportunity were there again to come back to Buncombe County and work with people I have developed a rapport with. Having worked in Buncombe County before, I know Weaverville is a very sound operational department with not only good firefighters but exceptional training. They are go-getters and I am going to be fortunate to be part of the team there.
Harris spoke optimistically about the outlook for the department. I have talked with Chief Davis on several occasions, and I know the framework is in place for the staff there to be successful. I believe my servant leadership style of engaging and open communication aligns with the department’s needs and I feel that, working together, we can be successful as a department. Ms. Coffey speaks highly of the department, and I look forward to being not only part of the leadership team at the fire department but the town as a whole. ”
Coffey thanked members of the Weaverville Fire Department and stated, “With every interview, I boasted that our fire department team is second to none in their knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide public safety to the Weaverville area.” Chief Harris will be a complement to our team and will progress the department in the years to come.”
She also said in the press release that “Interim Chief and Weaverville Police Chief, Ron Davis, has very capably led the Fire Department during the search process” and that she “could not be more pleased with his efforts to lead this important team during a challenging time.”
“Chief Davis has been steadfast, flexible, and has exhibited a willingness to serve in his dual capacity with a professionalism and attitude that is unparalleled.”
Coffey expects Harris will begin his employment with the Town of Weaverville on October 10, 2022.