Longtime Gainesville Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough has announced he will retire at the end of this year. Chief Yarbrough has served as Fire Chief for the last eight years, but been with the city for 37 years in various capacities.
He started as a firefighter in 1984, working his way up to become the first African American chief in Gainesville’s history.
According to a press release from the City of Gainesville, Yarbrough says that it was not an easy decision. “After careful consideration, I decided that this is the right time for both my family and me to make this change in our lives,” Chief Yarbrough wrote in a retirement letter to city officials. “Words alone cannot express how much of an honor it has been for me to serve this City, and the community that I grew up in, for the past 37 years. It is with appreciation to you (City officials), the citizens of Gainesville, and the men and women of the Gainesville Fire Department that I have had this opportunity to do a job that I loved every day.”
As a native to Gainesville, Chief Yarbrough has also been very actively involved in the community. He has served on the board of directors for Safe Kids Northeast Georgia, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, as well as the Lanier Technical College Advisory and City of Gainesville Plan A Retirement Board. He’s also been a youth football coach for Gainesville Parks and Recreation.
Gainesville Manager Bryan Lackey says he will most certainly be missed. “Jerome leaves a great legacy and tremendous future ahead for GFD,” said Lackey. “Through his leadership, GFD has maintained the ISO Rating of 1, developed a well-trained and professional staff, and ensured the department has procured world-class-level equipment and facilities. While he will be tough to replace, he has laid a solid foundation for the future leadership of GFD.”
Mayor Danny Dunagan agreed. "It's always a bittersweet moment when you have an employee as dedicated as Jerome Yarbrough leave the City to enter a new chapter of life," said Mayor Danny Dunagan. "We'll miss him greatly, but we wish him the very best in his retirement and thank him for everything he's done to make the Gainesville Fire Department what it is today."
Chief Yarbrough made sure to share in the credit of his many successes by saying that, “no fire department can succeed by itself.” He thanked the support of the department, the City Council and the citizens of Gainesville.
Before taking a position in Gainesville, Chief Yarbrough served in the U.S. Army, was a deputy with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to being a firefighter, he also worked as a fire inspector, fire marshal/battalion chief, and deputy fire chief.
His last day in office will be December 31, 2021.
According to the release, the city has already initiated the process of selecting Chief Yarbrough’s successor, and hopes to promote from within.