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Board appoints fire chief director of Public Safety

By Bill Short

Gary Graves

Gary Graves

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen appointed Fire Chief Gary Graves this week to serve as director of a new Department of Public Safety.
Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Frankie Dakin and seconded by Alderman Thomas McGhee.
The motion was passed by five affirmative votes, with Aldermen Larry Dagen and Hank Hawkins absent.
Graves has been the city’s fire chief since 2009. His new appointment comes in the wake of Police Chief Arthur Heun’s resignation last Friday.
Heun was appointed by the board in September 2015 to replace Frank Tennant, who resigned after $12,000 was discovered missing from the Property and Evidence Room of the police department.
During discussion shortly before the vote Monday night, City Manager Ed Haley called Heun “highly recommended, highly credentialed and a very good gentleman.” And although he acknowledged a “calming” of the police department during the past eight months, Haley said it has not reached the “level of service” that he believes it should.
“I spoke with Chief Heun and asked him to consider resigning to give us the opportunity to move forward at a higher level of service,” he noted. “And he graciously did so.”
Calling Graves “a super guy” he has worked with for 14 months, Haley said he has the leadership capability, administrative ability, skill, knowledge and desire to see the police and fire departments achieve that higher level.
“We had this discussion early on,” he recalled. “In fact, a few months ago, I talked to him about considering this.”
Graves acknowledged that the concept of a public safety director is “unique,” particularly in the South. But he noted that “a couple of large cities” in East Tennessee have adopted it.
And although his background is in fire administration, Graves said he does not know everything about it.
“But I’ve got a lot of good people in there who do,” he noted, “and I’ve tried to give them the means to do what they need to do. My intent is to do the same thing on the police side.”
Graves said police and fire are separate departments with separate tasks, but they have one mission: to provide for the public safety of Millington’s residents.
While acknowledging that the “microscope” will be on the city to see if this concept works, he said his intent is to make sure it does.
Dakin said Graves has his “full faith, confidence and respect.” He also noted that the only reason why the board has created a Department of Public Safety is to make Millington safer.
“This is going to make our police and fire departments stronger, now that they’re working under one leader with the mission that you just outlined,” he told Graves. “So, I’m very excited about this.”
“We’re all looking forward to it,” Alderman Mike Caruthers concluded.

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