Fire Veteran Honored As Alabama's Chief Of The Year

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Joe Mansell has had a number of opportunities to leave Russellville and take a job elsewhere. Each time he’s been offered, the response has been the same.

No thanks.

“This is where I started as a firefighter, and I hope this is where I will finish,” said Russellville’s fire chief of 20 years. “This is my home.”

Mansell, 50, began his firefighting career as a volunteer in 1990. He became a paid firefighter in 1992. Six years later he was promoted to lieutenant and then in 2002 he was named fire chief.

He’s been there ever since.

A few weeks ago, Mansell and his family went to the Southeast Association of Fire Chiefs and Alabama Fire Chiefs Association Leadership Conference in Mobile.

Mansell met a number of fire chiefs from around the state and the Southeast. One night, during the conference, the Alabama Fire Chiefs Association held its annual awards banquet, so, of course, Mansell attended.

There have been numerous fire chiefs from around the state walk to the stage to be named Fire Chief of the Year. Mansell now knows what that walk feels like when your name is called.

“It’s a big deal to walk up and get that trophy in front of a group of people like them,” he said. “I came into a great department when I took over as chief at Russellville. I just took the baton and kept moving forward.”

Russellville Capt. Randy Seal said he’s seen the department steadily grow under Mansell.

“He’s done a real good job. At the time (he was promoted), we had just gone to a two-station department and had a minimum staffing of four men per shift. Now we’re up to six men per shift,” said Seal, who will be in his 25th year with the department today. “Now, we’ve got some of the best equipment to work with.

“He’s pretty easy to work for,” Seal said of Mansell. “He expects you to do your job, but he’s there when you need to talk to him, and open to suggestions or ideas to make the department better. I look at him as a brother who’s in charge.”

Mansell, who said he still enjoys jumping right in and fighting fires with his colleagues, said he’s slowed down a little, and he knows that retirement isn’t too far off.

“I have been blessed to work with a bunch of guys who live to serve and protect the people of this community every shift,” he said. “If I do decide to retire soon, I couldn’t think of a better way than after being named Alabama’s Fire Chief of the Year.”