Youngstown names first black fire chief

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By David Skolnick


A 24-year veteran firefighter will become the next fire chief – and the first black to lead the department.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown announced Thursday that Capt. Barry F. Finley of Youngstown will take over as chief in a few weeks.

“There really aren’t words to describe how I’m feeling,” Finley said. “I’ve worked my entire career for this position.”

As for being the first black fire chief in the city’s history, he said, “It is an honor. I didn’t think about it in those terms, but I’m proud. It means something, but not as much as being named to this position.”

He will be paid $91,027 annually, the same salary as outgoing chief John J. O’Neill Jr.

“He impressed me with his thinking about the department,” Brown said. “He is big on training. He wants to help with an elderly watch plan and has extensive training as a paramedic.”

Finley was hired in 1993 by the fire department and served as an assistant commander of the honor guard, and commander of the technical rescue operations team. He’s been a captain since 2001.

He’s also employed as a registered nurse for Mercy Health and as a firefighter and paramedic for the Liberty Fire Department.

“The depth and breadth of Capt. Finley’s experience is a perfect fit for the position of fire chief,” Brown said.

Nine people applied for the fire chief’s job.

O’Neill is retiring later this year from the department after 20 years as chief. He will become a battalion chief until he leaves the department in September or October.

“Those are humongous shoes to fill,” Finley said of O’Neill.

Brown, mayor since Jan. 1, said he plans to appoint a water commissioner and deputy director of public works today, and select a police chief and prosecutor early next week.

In addition to fire chief, Brown has appointed a buildings and grounds commissioner, parks and recreation director and law director.

He also made Deputy Finance Director Kyle Miasek the interim finance director and appointed Michael Abouserhal, a retired public accountant, as an “executive on loan” on a temporary basis through April 30 to evaluate the city’s operations including its financial situation and 2018 budget.

Brown said he will start the searches next week for a code enforcement and blight-remediation superintendent and for a director of downtown events and citywide special projects.

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