Former Statesboro fire chief Dennis Merrifield will be starting 2011 with a new job. Merrifield announced this week he accepted the position of Barrow County's chief of emergency services.
"I'm excited about the new opportunity," he said. "I am looking forward to being a part of Barrow County. There are a lot of similarities to Bulloch County."
He said the position is similar to that of Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn. Merrifield will be overseeing "134 employees providing fire, EMS, E-911, county wide dispatch, and emergency management to a population of about 70,000 people living in a 162 sq. mile area."
The population is comparable to that of Bulloch County, although the area where those people reside is much smaller than Bulloch, he said. Barrow County includes the city of Winder, just north of Atlanta.
Merrifield was offered the position last week by the Barrow County Commission chairman, and will start Jan. 12.
The agreement will be ratified by the Barrow County Commission during their Jan. 11 meeting, he said.
Merrifield said he is happy to make the move, but will maintain a residence in Statesboro until his daughter graduates from high school this summer. He will live in Barrow County during the week and commute back to Statesboro on weekends, he said.
Merrifield's position as fire chief was eliminated last summer, along with the Statesboro police chief position and a number of other positions, as part of a city-wide move to restructure leadership and reduce expense.
The move, made unexpectedly, caused a great deal of controversy within the community. Merrifield received a severance package of about $40,000.
"There are no ill feelings," he said. "I enjoyed my time here."
However, he said he will miss living in Statesboro.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed Statesboro and met some really neat people, made some really good friends. But I am convinced this (Barrow County) is where I need to be."
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.