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Luffman appointed permanent FDMJ fire chief

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Mt. Juliet city officials officially announced Monday that Interim Fire Chief Jamie Luffman has been appointed to the position of fire chief on a permanent basis.

Luffman was interim chief for three months after the resignation of Chief Erron Kinney 90 days ago. Luffman became deputy chief with the Fire Department of Mt. Juliet that opened Sept. 30, 2013, after spending 14 years with Wilson Emergency Management Agency.

"I don't want any fanfare," Luffman said, who grew up in Mt. Juliet. "We've just gotten rid of the 'interim,' and now I'm right back to work."

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin, who made the appointment, shared an in-house memorandum he sent out late Monday afternoon to city employees about the announcement.

"Appointing Interim Chief Luffman to Chief Luffman was unanimously supported by the mayor, vice mayor, commissioners and staff, and we all know he will do a great job as fire chief for our great city," Martin said. "I would also like to commend the entire staff of FDMJ for making Chief Luffman's interim period as chief and the department's first two years a complete success. I/we all know that the true success of any leader is to surround themselves with a great staff of dedicated professional men and women...for which chief and his leadership team have truly succeeded in doing. Luffman and his leadership team have truly succeeded in doing."

However, Martin shared further excitement with The Wilson Post.

"Jamie is like a brother to me," he said. "He's the same age and has the same vision for our city. This is his hometown. This is his heart and soul. I knew he could do the job, that's why he was hired as deputy chief. We wanted him to succeed in the three-month interim period and I have heard and seen nothing but positive things. He knocked it out of the park."

Luffman said while he did originally apply for the chief's position, he "just really wanted an interview to prove myself."

"I think the way it worked out is a blessing," he said. "I've built upon everything Erron did. The interim position gave me the opportunity to see how I would function with this authority and to see if this is where I wanted to be. It is."

He admits he's worked hard in the new department.

"We've got a good group and have wind in our sails," he said.

Mt. Juliet City Commissioner Ray Justice grew up with Luffman.

"It's a long time coming," Justice said after the announcement. "Jamie is the most moral and upstanding man I've met in my life. Mt. Juliet is in his heart. He's gone from boots on the ground to the head guy. I'm proud and extraordinarily happy."

Luffman said his "to do" items now at the helm in a permanent position will be to continue the current direction and find even more opportunities.

"We are concentrating on fire, rescue and EMS, and it's my job to make sure we have the proper training and tools," he said.

On the day of the announcement, his desk was covered with "budget cycle" notes and plans.

He's going to hire two new firefighters soon, and said in June he'll find out if the department gets the SAFER grant for which they applied. Today he's meeting with his "exceptional" command staff to hear what they need in the budget.

"I want to make sure we operate in a safe environment and have high morale for both the paid and volunteer staff," he said.

Currently, they have 17 paid staff and 35 volunteers.

He said at this point, there will be no deputy chief hired. For now, he has three chief captains and a volunteer division chief, and Martin confirmed those plans.

"We had a learning curve at first, and at this point we know since Jamie has three different captains and others, there's people to help when he's away," he said.

He noted not hiring a second in command would save on the budget and hopefully fund another firefighter.

"I'm grateful to Mr. Martin and the board of commissioners for the faith they have in me," he said. "And, I'm grateful to my wife and son."

Luffman said when he was a little kid he wanted to be a firefighter.

"When I was a big kid I always wanted to be a fire chief," he said. "It's definitely a dream come true. When Christmas rolls around, I definitely won't have to ask Santa Claus for anything."

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

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FDMJ, Fire Department of Mt. Juliet, fire service, Jamie Luffman, Kenny Martin, Mt. Juliet
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