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Spotsylvania fire chief retiring in December

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Spotsylvania County Fire Chief Chris Eudailey is retiring in December after more than two decades at the helm of the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management.

He has seen the county transition from a mostly volunteer-staffed fire and rescue system to one where paid crews handle the majority of emergency calls on weekdays—and around-the-clock at some stations.

“I just thought it was a good time for me to explore some other options,” Eudailey, 52, said this week. “I think it’s time for a change for me and probably time for a change for the county.”

Eudailey’s retirement announcement comes amid complaints of low morale from volunteers.

At a Board of Supervisors meeting last month, chiefs from the county’s three volunteer agencies said they feel the county is driving them out. Among their issues was that it takes the fire and rescue department too long to process volunteer applications.

Eudailey wouldn’t say whether those comments or his relationship with the volunteers impacted his decision to retire. But he said much of the information presented at the meeting was not “factually correct” and that he plans to provide a written response shortly.

Despite the dissension, LeRon Lewis, chief of the Spotsylvania Volunteer Rescue Squad, said he’s always had a professional relationship with Eudailey.

“We’ve never had any problems communicating or not getting along,” Lewis said. “We’ve always had respectful dialogue.”

He said he thinks tension among volunteers and career staff is inevitable. “The biggest thing is trying to get over that hurdle” and find compromise, Lewis said.

The increasing cost of fire and rescue services has become political.

The four supervisors who took office in January 2012 have said they want to increase the volunteer ranks to save money. They even funded a $36,000 volunteer recruitment drive.

The supervisors have also spent millions on a fire and rescue staffing plan approved last year. Eudailey hopes they see the plan to fruition.

Board members have funded more than half of the 55 positions in the plan. They had initially hoped to fill the rest in the fiscal year that begins July 1, but that won’t happen due to budget constraints.

Controversies aside, Eudailey said he’s been contemplating retirement for at least 18 months. He noted that both of his daughters graduated from college last year, and his youngest is getting married soon.

He plans to find a job somewhere else but isn’t sure if he’ll work full time or part time.

Eudailey was hired as Spotsylvania’s fire marshal—then the top paid firefighter position—in January 1989 at the age of 28. He had previously been a fire inspector for James City County and a district chief with a volunteer company in Chesterfield County.

Spotsylvania had just eight paid firefighters when Eudailey started the fire marshal job, he said. The county now has 164 paid fire and rescue employees, many of them firefighters.

Eudailey acknowledged that the job has had its ups and downs, but said he’s had a positive experience overall.

“I would like to think that I’ve had a small role in my 24 years here, and hopefully as I leave, the citizens will find the organization just a tad bit better than [it was] when I got here,” he said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402