Fire Chief Resigning Because of County 'Politics'

Reporter: David Tate

Buchanan, VA - Less than two months after being seriously injured by a downed power line, Buchanan Volunteer Fire Chief Billy Joe Carter has decided to leave the department.

Carter says his recovery does play a part in his decision, but he says the main reason is politics interfering with his department.

As for his recovery, Carter says there is still a long way to go. He says he wants to thank everyone who has helped him and wished him a speedy recovery.

"Most of all I'd like to thank the people from right here in my hometown Buchanan, for the support they gave me and the hand that they stuck out to help me up," he said.

The reason for his resignation has been a brewing issue in Botetourt where that county is trying to consolidate all emergency management, even volunteers, under one department.

Chief Carter is concerned the change will tear down the century plus tradition of the department and the stress of moving on has gotten to be too much.

As Carter shows off the proud history of the Buchanan Fire Department, it is taking him everything he has to hold back tears. He is just hours away from telling one family goodbye.

"You can't fight politics and that's what's pushing me out of this," he said.

He says the decision has not been an easy one, but he feels the county's move to hire an Emergency Management Director is a waste of tax dollars that could be better spent upgrading volunteer gear.

"You need to leave your organizations alone. If it's not broke don't fix it. You cannot justify what you're doing," said Carter.

The crux of the issue is concern that the new director will have the ability to pull rank on the chief, ultimately diminishing the community impact the volunteers provide.

"I think, literally, that would be used once in a blue moon. But it has to be there just for public safety," said Jerry Burgess, the Botetourt County Administrator.

Ten of 12 volunteer departments are already on board. Buchanan voted against it.

Now, a new chief will have to decide what's best for the department and ultimately the people they serve.

"I don't know if it's going to be a good thing or a bad thing. I'm praying it's going to be a good thing. I hope the volunteer organizations can work with this guy and make it work. I'm not going to be a part of it," said Carter.

Carter says he plans on spending more time with his other family which includes his two sons.

A meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Buchanan Fire House where he will officially step down as fire chief and say goodbye to his crew.