Writer: Abbigail Lennon
Published April 19, 2017
The Augusta Chronicle
Columbia County commissioners named Jeremy Wallen as new fire chief Wednesday.
Wallen has served as interim chief after the retirement of longtime fire chief Paul D. Cooper, who served the department for more than 40 years. Wallen, who was Cooper’s second in command and information officer, took over the interim position Jan. 1.
“It’s an honor,” Wallen said of the promotion after his first official day as chief. “It can be pretty intimidating because there’s a huge legacy and years of legacy and I just want to pick up that torch and move it forward.”
Wallen has lived in Columbia County for most of his life and been with the fire department for 23 years, first as an Administration Chief.
He has completed Chief Fire Officer Training by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. Wallen also holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Augusta University and is a graduate of the Carl Vinson Institute’s Management Development Program from the University of Georgia. He is a Georgia State Certified Firefighter, Georgia Licensed EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and Peace Officer.
As chief, Wallen will now oversee the fire services division, which includes the departments of fire administration, special operations and fire training. Wallen is also heading Emergency Management and 3-1-1 departments in the interim. Former longtime EMA Director Pam Tucker were over them but they were temporarily placed under different departments after her resignation in January, according to the county’s director of public relations Cassidy Harris.
Wallen said he did not know who was going to take his position.
“That’s something I will work with the county administration to figure out so we can put the right team in place, but we have a great staff,” Wallen said. “Together we are all a really good team.”
Wallen also said he does not have any major changes planned, and said that any would be made responsibly.
“I believe that you always want to try do positive change incrementally, don’t try to fix the world in one day,” Wallen said. “I think we are in great shape and we have so much support from Columbia County, there is just great support from the commission and the administration that we can just keep momentum and keep moving forward.”
According to Harris, there were a handful out of state applicants for the fire chief position. But Wallen said his longtime service within the community is a plus, and that serving as interim since January has helped his transition into the job.
“I have been in Columbia County since I was in middle school and 23 years, working this job in this department,” Wallen said. “So I feel very connected to it and I feel prepared to continue to help the citizens and make them happy with the department.”