Two years after assisting the City of Clinton during a leadership transition within its fire department, Austin Tew is reprising his role as the city’s interim chief while another permanent replacement can be found.
Tew served as Clinton’s chief for several months at the beginning half of 2015 between the tenures of Chief Adon Snyder and current Chief Scott Phillips, who announced his resignation last month, noting he will be returning to Dunn, where he will assume the duties of assistant chief of fire and EMS.
“The city thanks Chief Phillips for all his hard work and dedication over the past two years and expresses best wishes to him in his new employment opportunity,” Interim city manager Robert Hyatt announced Wednesday afternoon.
To fill the vacancy, Hyatt appointed Tew as interim chief. Currently, Tew works as a fire inspector with the city.
“He served as the city’s interim fire chief in 2015, prior to hiring Mr. Phillips and did an excellent job,” Hyatt stated. “For continuity’s sake, he seems like a natural fit. He’s done a really good job doing that fire inspection piece for us. He will continue to do that while guiding our fire department as we recruit our next chief.”
Prior to working with Clinton, Tew served as chief of Dunn Emergency Services and also as the fire chief for the City of Dunn.
“He came very well qualified,” Hyatt noted.
Phillips was with the city since June 2015. He was hired following an in-depth assessment center process that was initiated upon the departure of Snyder at the end of January 2015. The tenures of Phillips, and predecessor Snyder, were about the same, each logging a little over two years with the department.
Phillips will leave his post effective Aug. 9. He described his time as Clinton’s chief as overwhelmingly positive, but when the opportunity in Dunn came along — putting him closer to his family and allowing him to go back and continue where he started — it was one he “couldn’t pass up.”
“I didn’t expect this to happen, quite frankly. When I came here, I honestly thought I’d be here for a good, long while,” he told The Sampson Independent last month. “Then this opportunity presented itself. It is a chance for me to advance my career. I am blessed. I’ve had an opportunity to work with some really fine people here in Clinton, and now I get a chance to go home again.”
Phillips’ resignation marks the fourth department head vacancy for the city in recent months, coming on the heels of the retirements of Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil and Police Chief Jay Tilley and the resignation of City Manager Shawn Purvis. Donald Edwards was named the new police chief last week and officially sworn in Tuesday.
Upon Phillips’ announcement, Mayor Lew Starling said an interim chief would be utilized while the city works through the process of finding another chief. Hyatt said Wednesday that the city will begin the recruitment process for a new fire chief once a new city manager is hired.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.