Thomas W. Carr Jr., a Montgomery County firefighter and paramedic for nearly 30 years, was named chief of the county's Fire and Rescue Service yesterday.
Carr, the first person to lead a united force of paid and volunteer firefighters in the county, was appointed by Montgomery Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D). He said one of his initial tasks will be gaining the trust of the several hundred volunteer firefighters, many of whom had fought the creation of his new position.
"It all starts with good, strong communication," Carr said.
Most large urban jurisdictions have switched to all paid firefighters. But volunteers in Montgomery have retained much community support and significant political clout, fighting off several attempts to consolidate authority under one paid chief. The 19 volunteer chiefs have shared power with a career fire chief, a civilian fire administrator and a seven-member Fire and Rescue Commission. The County Council voted unanimously in May to unite career and volunteer firefighters under one chief starting in January.
Carr, 50, of Colesville, has been chief of the county's 1,000 career firefighters since 2003. He takes over the new job at a time when the county is struggling with aging fire engines, the potential threat of terrorist attacks and recent attention to the fact that, in an increasingly diverse county, white men make up 89 percent of its recent firefighting recruit class.
Michael J. Weiner, president of the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department, said Carr will have to work hard to gain volunteers' trust.
"We've certainly had our disagreements in the past with the county and Chief Carr and a number of policies that were implemented without our input," Weiner said. ". . .This is not something that's going to be healed overnight. These relationships have been festering for dozens of years."
Ken Holden, a volunteer member of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad and president of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, said the "overwhelming majority" of volunteer firefighters support Carr.
"I won't sugarcoat it and say every volunteer in Montgomery County loves him," Holden said. "Some people wanted an outsider, but the majority are confident in Tom Carr and his ability to lead both groups."
Duncan also appointed Arthur Holmes Jr., a former planning commission chairman, as director of the county's Department of Public Works and Transportation. Holmes, 73, of Olney, recently oversaw Duncan's "Go Montgomery" program aimed at easing traffic congestion.
Holmes's position pays $155,000. Carr's salary will be $161,000.