‘Servant leader’ takes fire chief rolePublished 9:18pm Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Pledging to be a “servant leader,” Cedric Scott took the helm of the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue Tuesday as its 10th chief and first black chief in the history of the department.
Guests at the afternoon ceremony in City Council chambers got a glimpse of Scott’s leadership style as he weaved an elaborate metaphor that compared leading a fire department to being a doctor writing a prescription.
“I’ve seen leaders come into an organization and they prescribe a prescription before they ever diagnose the problem,” he said. “You first have to make a diagnosis.”
Just as doctors sometimes confer with specialists, Scott promised to confer with his “specialists” before prescribing cures for issues that confront the department.
“My specialists ride fire trucks,” he said. “I realized a long time ago that I need the firefighters a lot more than they need me.”
Scott began his firefighting career in Macon, Ga., where he was raised by an adoptive mother, the late Annie Scott.
“She cleaned houses for a living, and we never missed a meal,” he said, recounting she often told him, “If you get something in your head, nobody can take it away from you.”
He added that he looks forward to strengthening his relationship with his biological mother.
Scott’s career with the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department began in 1987, and he moved up through the ranks until he reached the position of fire training chief, which he held until he was selected as chief of the Waycross Fire Department in May 2005. He spent a little less than two years in Waycross and in Rockdale County, where he also was the chief. He then got a job with the Savannah (Ga.) Fire and Emergency Services as the assistant fire chief of logistics, responsible for fire inspections, investigations, finance, safety, fleet maintenance, facilities, supply, fire support staff and training.
He spent less than two years in Savannah before being tapped for the Suffolk position. He replaces Interim Fire Chief Ed Taylor, who stood in the gap since former Chief Mark Outlaw retired a year ago.
Scott said he already has visited all nine of the city’s fire stations and met many of the department’s 250 employees.
“I realize I am standing on the shoulders of those who came before me who sacrificed a lot to make this department a great department,” he said. “I believe a great department deserves a great chief, and I plan to work as hard as I can to be that chief.”
Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett, introducing his counterpart at the ceremony, said he had been part of a team that called references in the Georgia communities where Scott has served. He recalled hearing several themes repeatedly from Scott’s former supervisors, subordinates, colleagues and community members — great character, honest, hard-working, dedicated and committed to mentorship.
Scott and his wife, Lydia, have seven grown children in their blended family. He holds associates degrees in paramedic technology and fire service administration, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration.
City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn presented Taylor, who now returns to his role as the deputy chief, with a special plaque to thank him for his service to the department.