Prince William County’s assistant fire chief will head to Manassas to take over the city’s fire and rescue department, which lost its last chief amid turmoil in the agency.
Brett Bowman, who will begin May 2, will replace former Manassas Fire and Rescue Department Chief Michael Wood, who resigned last year after spending two years trying to lead a department in which volunteer and career members remain divided on the organizational structure of the department and who should ultimately be in charge.
“Chief Bowman’s broad experience in fire, rescue and emergency management operations in a combined volunteer and career fire and rescue system similar to the city’s makes him uniquely qualified to be the city’s fire and rescue chief,” Manassas City Manager Lawrence D. Hughes said. “Additionally, the city and county fire and rescue systems already work together as first responders daily.”
Bowman started his career at the Manassas Volunteer Fire Company and later became chief of the Stonewall Jackson Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad. Bowman received a master’s in public administration from George Mason University and is certified as an executive fire officer from the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Pa., Hughes said.
Since Wood left, interim Chief Dale McCleese has been overseeing the department, which includes the paid staff, and two volunteer organizations, the Greater Manassas Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Manassas Volunteer Fire Company.
Because of an ongoing dispute between the volunteer and career members, the City Council passed an ordinance in January 2010 that gave the paid chief control of day-to-day operations but not final say on policies or procedures. Instead, a public safety committee with four volunteers, two career staff members and a nonvoting council member make policy decisions.
Because the groups continue to clash on the ultimate future of the department, city and fire officials asked the Virginia Department of Fire Programs to conduct a review of the department. The report, released last month, recommended that the city support having a “strong chief model” with one chief in charge.
City Council members said they wanted to wait to act on any recommendations until a new chief took over.