Raleigh’s outgoing assistant fire chief will soon report to work as the fire chief in North Myrtle Beach.
Garry Spain, 48, was hired Tuesday to replace former chief Tom Barstow, who retired last month. Spain is set begin in the new position April 6.
He plans to retire from the Raleigh department March 31, marking the end of a 27-year run there, but said he wasn’t ready to leave the fire service permanently.
Spain grew up in Knightdale and has lived in Wendell since marrying his wife, Jennifer, in 1988 – the same year he started his career with the Raleigh Fire Department. He also served nine years at a volunteer capacity at the Wendell Fire Department alongside his work in Raleigh.
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“We had been looking for places at the beach for when we retire, and I’m not ready to retire, so this gives her a great place to relax and me a great place to start a new career,” Spain said. “I was really looking for something new. We’re just excited for the new challenge.”
During his career with the Raleigh department, Spain was promoted to fire lieutenant in his fourth year. He moved up the ranks again in 1996 to fire captain.
He was promoted to battalion chief in 2004, leaving him in charge of overseeing five fire stations, seven fire captains and 45 fire personnel. In 2010, his title was upgraded to division chief in charge of 27 fire stations and 170 fire personnel, according to Jay Fernandez, North Myrtle Beach public safety director.
Spain took the position of assistant fire chief in charge of overseeing strategic planning for the Raleigh Fire Department in 2012, which included new station design and construction, remodeling existing fire stations, and acquisition of future firefighting apparatus.
“I just love the challenges that the (new) job offers,” Spain said. “Every day you come to work it’s a different job. One day it could be a structure fire, the other day it’s planning to build a fire department.”
Five of the 53 candidates were chosen for interviews, and two were selected for follow up interviews.
The vote to hire Spain was unanimous.
“Spain has a great deal of experience and knowledge in all areas of the job, and he has an open, inviting personality,” Fernandez said. “He will fit in well with our personnel and with the community at large.”
Spain, who was in Wisconsin Sunday through Wednesday doing pre-construction work on a fire truck for Raleigh, said his greatest skill is developing for the future – whether it’s new fire trucks, departments, staff or budgets.
“I don’t know everything, but I’m aware of many things. I know how to use my resources,” he said.
He said the first thing he will do in North Myrtle Beach is figure out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses in the department and find the best fit.
“My plans are to get to know the personnel and see everything they have to offer, figure out what I have to offer, and see what we can do to mesh it together,” Spain said. “I was very excited (when offered the position). I’m looking forward to coming down, looking forward to the new challenge.”
Byun: 843-626-0381; Twitter: @Claire_TSN.