Atwood fire chief fired at chaotic meeting

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Atwood Fire Chief Bobby McAlexander lost his job during a somewhat chaotic meeting of the Atwood Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Sept. 10 at city hall.

Mayor James Halford, Sr. brought up the matter, citing a Labor Day traffic accident on Highway 79 during which a state trooper allegedly asked McAlexander to leave the scene.

“I’m unhappy,” said the mayor. “No bones about it. I think we need another fire chief.”

Alderman Jimmy Lewis commented that he has been getting complaints from fire fighters from other departments that they can’t work with McAlexander.

“There’s definitely been problems brewing for awhile,” said Lewis.

“I’ve never had no problems with anybody,” said McAlexander in his defense.

Alderman L.N. McNabb asked Halford if he had anyone in mind to take McAlexander’s place.

“I’ve actually got two people,” said the mayor. “I’ve talked to people on the Fire Department, and they say they’re capable.”

Lewis added that McAlexander lacks the leadership skills needed for the job.

“Nobody’s judging your ability to work,” said Lewis to McAlexander. “But you have to have a certain character. And we have it coming in our ears from all sides, and we can’t have that.”

After some more discussion, Lewis made the motion to bring it to a vote as to whether or not to keep McAlexander on as fire chief.

Alderman Ricky Long voted to fire McAlexander, McNabb voted to keep him, and Lewis abstained from voting. The mayor broke the tie by voting to fire the chief. Alderman Jimmy Halford, Jr. was not present at the meeting.

According to city recorder Amanda Browning, Joey Pryor, one of two assistant fire chiefs, was promoted to chief by the mayor following the meeting.

McAlexander has served as fire chief since November of last year, when he replaced former fire chief Tim Robinson, and he has been with the Atwood Fire Department for the past three years.

In a Friday telephone interview, McAlexander said he was disappointed with the board’s decision and that he believed that they were “going off a lot of hearsay.”

“It kind of surprised me,” said McAlexander. “There’s a lot of good ole boy stuff going on.”

McAlexander pointed out that the town’s ISO rating has lowered significantly since he took the job, saving town property owners money in insurance premiums.

“And that comment about me not getting along with county departments was a lie,” he said.

McAlexander said he plans to stay on as a member of the fire department.

AFTER THE MEETING – Atwood residents, including Teresa Stanfill, Sue King, Steve King, and Joyce Luter, discuss the state of city politics outside city hall following the Sept. 10 board meeting 

In the city hall parking lot following the meeting, several citizens expressed displeasure with McAlexander’s firing and the way the city is being run in general.

“I think they done Bobby wrong,” said Teresa Stanfill. “We’ve got to get it together in this town or the whole town’s gonna go berserk.”

Stanfill cited an incident during the August meeting when McNabb walked out of the meeting and was heard saying that he was resigning from the board. McNabb, however, did not officially resign, and the mayor announced during the Sept. 10 meeting that McNabb was still an alderman and “that’s all I’m gonna say about that.”

Joyce Luter accused the mayor of always wanting everything his way, putting people down, and talking behind their backs.

“This whole thing is a comedy of errors,” said resident Sue King.

• • •

In other business:

•Aldermen voted 2-1 to include the creation of speed bumps as part of a planned project to do paving and repair work on Stewart Street. McNabb and Lewis voted for the measure, while Long voted against it.

•The board voted unanimously to authorize Browning to seek $13,845 in potential federal grant money through the Tennessee Cares Act to be used for COVID-19-related renovations and equipment purchases for city hall.

•The board granted a request from West Carroll school bus driver Gerald Mauldin to have trees encroaching roadways trimmed back on Peggy Ln., Raymond St., Stewart St., Greenhill St., Walnut St., and Christine St.

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