( 2 Votes )

Christopher WhiteThe Fork Union Volunteer Fire Department voted Christopher White, 27, its newest fire chief.

White, who has volunteered with the department for more than nine years, said he’s happy to have the responsibility, but he’s not sure it’s worth a story.
White is uncomfortable tooting his own horn.

A surgical technician at University of Virginia Medical Center, White is the first black person to hold the title of chief in the Fluvanna Volunteer Fire Department. The position came open when Frankie Hackett stepped down.

As a black woman, Fluvanna County Supervisor Mozell Booker has broken a few boundaries herself. The most recent was when she was voted to serve as the chair of the Board of Supervisors.

Booker said she’s known White’s family for years.

“He’s just a fine young man and comes from a wonderful family,” she said. ”He was raised by a single mom. He was an usher at our church. He’s a typical, all-American young man.”

Mike Brent is the chief over the entire Fluvanna County Volunteer Fire Department.

“He’s a good man. I think the guys and girls follow him. He’s well respected and he has the training and credentials to be the chief,” Brent said, offering his thoughts on why White’s peers elected him.

Brent said the position of chief comes with no pay or perks. “There’s no pay, just more responsibility,” he said.

More than 150 firefighters volunteer in Fluvanna, which includes Palmyra, Fork Union, Kents Store and Lake Monticello. Brent said Lake Monticello has its own charter, but operationally he includes them in the numbers.

“We could always use more” volunteers, he said. “As is typical of a volunteer department, people are in and out.”

Brent said his organization is polling the volunteers to see what incentives they could be offered that would help attract and keep members.

Right now, the only incentive offered is that the county pays the personal property tax of the vehicle the volunteer uses to drive to and from the station or fire.

“We’re looking down the road – looking at financial stipends or educational opportunities,” Brent said.

But right now, he’s happy White stepped up and agreed to serve in Fork Union’s top spot.

The Fluvanna Review asked White about his role as Fork Union chief. How did you become interested in serving in the fire department?
I became interested in joining the fire department while I was in high school. Once I graduated, I was convinced by two of my close friends who were already members to join in December 2008.

Do you have any ideas on how to better the department or run things differently?
There are three things I have set as goals for our department: communication, safety and respect. All three of those build off of one another. We need to respect each other enough to communicate with each other which in turn will make sure we all get home safe.

How many hours do you serve on the squad? How many more will you be working now that you’re chief?
I spend approximately 10 hours a week on administrative duties and the operational hours vary based on the amount of calls we have. Luckily I have a great group of line officers who I am able to trust and delegate to. That allows me to spread out the responsibilities.

Why did you accept the position of chief?

I accepted the position because I felt I was the best candidate that could continue to enable the department to grow as we have over the past two to three years. With that being said, it is not me alone. It also takes a great group of line officers, which I have, as well as a supportive membership.

What does it mean to you to be the first black fire chief in Fluvanna? What message might it send?
Being the first black company chief in Fluvanna County means that I have gained the respect of my peers in my department. In the current situation of our nation and the slighted feeling people have towards law enforcement, it shows that the first responders of Fluvanna County can come together to serve the citizens in their time of need no matter what race, ethnicity or religious background they come from.

How has your education, family and friends influenced you?
Growing up in Fluvanna County and graduating from the county high school gives me a greater sense of purpose and makes me want to do the absolute best that I can within my department. Knowing that I am protecting the same people I live beside everyday makes me feel proud to do what I do.

I also owe a lot of my success to, and I want to thank, my family, including my mother, Leslie White, and grandmother, Cornelia White. I also want to thank my supportive girlfriend and the great group of close friends I have who have pushed me to become the man I am today.

As a personal goal I continually try to learn as much as I can to help better the department. I would also like to thank the instructors who took time out of their lives to train me from the day that I joined up until now. I look forward to any additional opportunities to learn from them.