Anne Arundel County's fire administrator said yesterday that he has accepted an offer to head a Florida department and will leave his present position by the end of the year.
Paul C. Haigley Jr., 52, who worked his way through the ranks from firefighter to the administrator's position he has held for three years, is to take over the St. Lucy County-Fort Pierce Fire District in mid-January.
Mr. Haigley's tenure as fire administrator has been marked by stormy relations with the county's 1,500 volunteer firefighters. The volunteers vigorously opposed changes imposed by Mr. Haigley, including a chain of command that demoted volunteer station chiefs and placed them beneath the rank of paid captains. Previously, volunteer captains reported directly to battalion chiefs and had authority over paid captains.
A spokesman for the Volunteer Firefighters Association said his membership was happy to see Mr. Haigley go, and would even help him pack.
"We are elated; we are ecstatic that he's leaving," said Robert J. Schappert III. "When all is said and done, the state of Florida must be desperate, because they haven't done their homework on this man."
County Executive Robert R. Neall praised Mr. Haigley's managerial skills, especially during difficult financial times.
"He gave over 30 years of first-class service to the people of Anne Arundel County," Mr. Neall said. "He did a very fine job of running the fire department during a very difficult time in our county's history."
In his new position, Mr. Haigley will supervise a 230-firefighter department with 12 stations, about half the size of Anne Arundel County. He will also take a cut in pay, to $72,000 a year from his current $85,000.
Mr. Haigley said his decision is basically a lifestyle choice. He qualified for a county pension two years ago and the chance to move to the Florida coastal community was too tempting to pass up. "It's a great area, it's a great fire department," Mr. Haigley said. "They're looking for someone to come in and bring it into the next century."
Mr. Haigley said his battles with the volunteers had nothing to do with his leaving, but he admitted that the fact that his new department has no volunteers was certainly a selling point.
He downplayed the extent of the conflict here. "The problem with the volunteers was [caused by] a small minority of individuals who are out of touch with reality," he said, "who were once in the power structure of an old antiquated system who can't seem to let go of that power."
Mr. Schappert said the volunteers would like to see one of two deputy chiefs succeed Mr. Haigley: Nelson A. Pyle or Roger C. Simonds.