Damien Locklear named next Kinston Fire Department Chief

Damien Locklear named next Kinston Fire Department Chief

The City of Kinston has announced its new Fire Chief.

Damien Locklear was named the new Chief and will take over the Fire Department on Jan. 2, 2019 for current Chief Don Crawford, who will retire Dec. 31 after 32 years of service. Crawford said he has high praise for Locklear moving forward.

“I think he’ll be a very wonderful chief for the City of Kinston,” Crawford said. “He’s very intelligent, sharp and will be a great asset to the community. The department will be in very capable hands with Chief Locklear — there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Locklear, a 14-year veteran of the fire service, current works as an assistant chief for the Cumberland Road Fire Department and a Captain for the City of Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department. Locklear holds a B.S. degree in Fire Science Administration and Master’s in Public Administration from Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa and also has memberships in the N.C. State Firefighter’s Association, the N.C. Rescue and EMS Association and the Cumberland County Fire Chief’s Association.

Locklear, who was born in Pembroke, said he appreciated Kinston for its location and tightknit feel.

“When I had the opportunity to get into Kinston, I enjoyed not just the city feel, but the hometown feel,” Locklear said. “I also appreciated the number of personnel and the opportunity to be able to get to know them individually, not just on a working level.

“I have family in Robeson County and Fayetteville, so Kinston is a pretty short driving distance. I was born and raised in North Carolina, want to stay here and felt like Kinston had everything I was looking for when it came to both my family and the professional aspect. My wife and I went through downtown Kinston and every person we spoke to was very friendly. We couldn’t ask for a better location.”

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said Locklear stood out from a group of strong candidates and an extensive process — including simulation exercises in terms of knowledge and management situations — was used to select him.

“We not only used a consulting firm, but also recruited other chiefs from other areas to judge because they’re experts on the subject,” Sears said. “We talked to them about the candidates, then went with Mr. Locklear, whose performance was outstanding.

“His performance wasn’t the only factor — we did a lot of background research and he had a great sense of leadership as well. He wants to pull the department together and when you’re going from one regime to another, you’re concerned about how everyone will react, like a team switching coaches. With his leadership and technical knowledge, we felt Damien would be a great candidate.”

Sears said the legacy Crawford left also played a strong role.

“One of the things we took into consideration is the great job Chief Crawford delivered as a 32-year employee,” Sears said. “We want to thank him for setting the standard and making us look even harder for someone of Chief Crawford’s caliber. He really set the bar.”

Kinston Mayor Don Hardy said he likes what Locklear is bringing to the table.

“He’s very knowledgable and brings a lot of innovative ideas,” Hardy said. “He’s very engaged and hands on, similar to Chief Crawford. He’ll be a great tool of resource to the citizens, he’ll have the opportunity to talk to many people and do whatever it takes to get up to speed. I feel like everything will be great.”

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