PORT ALLEN — West Baton Rouge Parish Council President Riley “Pee Wee” Berthelot appointed veteran firefighter Charles K. Stephens as fire chief for West Baton Rouge Parish on Thursday night at the regular parish council meeting.
Stephens, 49, is the assistant fire chief of Port Allen.
Stephen’s appointment marks the first time fire protection for the entire parish will be under a single fire chief and a consolidated parish fire department.
The Parish Council approved Berthelot’s appointment unanimously.
“This process was a learning experience, and I learned a lot about fire departments and how they react to fires and emergency situations,” Berthelot said. “We have a lot of good leaders here, and they do an outstanding job. It was a very difficult to make the decision, but I have asked Charles Stephens to serve as our fire chief.”
The crowded meeting room burst into applause at Berthelot’s announcement.
“I am proud to be selected to serve as the overall parish fire chief for West Baton Rouge,” Stephens said.
“There were great individual firefighters for you to select from, but my role is to now work with the six subdistricts that we currently have and those chiefs and those career firefighters.
“We will continue to provide a great service to the parish, the residents and the business owners. Wherever resources are needed, we will work together as a team to make sure West Baton Rouge continues in this consolidation as one.”
Stephens, who holds an associate degree of applied fire science from LSU-Eunice, has served as a Port Allen firefighter for 20 years.
“I’m going to start the process (of consolidating the departments) now,” Stephens said after the meeting. “I will be working to establish a command structure and how we want to geographically place personnel.”
The ordinance consolidating the six existing WBR fire districts allows the parish president to appoint the chief with council approval, but a civil service board will have disciplinary power over the chief, Berthelot said.
Stephens’ base salary is $74,512.
At the Jan. 23 meeting, Berthelot said he expected all current fire insurance ratings to remain in place for the time being.