Jimmy Cook, longtime volunteer fire chief for the city of Pembroke, said he may be retired from the position he’s held since 1971, but it wasn’t his decision.
“I just want to let people know it wasn’t my idea to retire, I don’t care what they (City Council) say,” Cook said Wednesday, referring to a decision by the Pembroke City Council on Monday to accept his and longtime firefighter Rex Smith’s retirement.
Council and fire committee member Diane Moore made the announcement on Cook’s behalf during the council’s regular meeting Monday at City Hall.
Cook said he and Smith learned that same day of the council’s decision in a letter from the city stating their retirement was effective immediately.
“It aggravated me because of the way they done it — they just threw it in front of us,” Cook said, adding there was a called fire committee meeting Monday prior to the city’s regular council meeting.
“They have the right to do it, but it wasn’t the right thing to do or the right time to do it,” he said.
Cook called the letter and action by the council a “forced” retirement and said he feels his age, 76, and Smith’s age, 81, was a reason behind the decision. Both men have volunteered with and been a part of the department for more than 50 years.
“I’m no spring chicken, but me and Rex are hardcore fellows,” he said, adding he had previously told the council he would retire when he felt he was no longer up to the job. “There’s a lot more to do on a fire scene besides fighting fires. You need people to operate the pump, bring hoses and equipment.”
“I’ve done a lot for the city,” Smith added. “My health is plum good, I don’t have health problems; I do what I want to do. I’ve put out many a fire.”
But Mayor Mary Warnell said the city is in the process of moving the volunteer-only department into a new direction.
She said the city is working to become accredited by the state, which requires more strenuous training, a new reporting system and more. She said the city is also trying to recruit more volunteer firefighters for the department.
Appointing Bryan County Emergency Services Chief Freddy Howell as the city’s interim chief will help the city move toward these goals through joint training with the county, she said.
Read more in the April 13 edition of the News.