The Woodlands Township has hired a new fire chief to replace former chief Alan Benson who retired in May.
In a press release sent Oct. 16, township officials announced the hiring of Palmer Buck, currently a division chief in operations for the Austin Fire Department. Buck has worked with the Austin Fire Department for the past 16 years, and according to the release, has a bachelor of arts degree and master of public affairs degree in addition to graduating from the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Office program. Buck will begin work on Dec. 2.
Don Norrell, the township’s president and general manager, said Buck was one of two finalists along with internal candidate Interim Fire Chief Doug Adams, who has been leading the department since early May when Benson stepped down. Until Buck starts work, the fire department will continue to be led on an interim basis by Adams.
Norrell said Buck was one of five candidates brought to the township for interviews in late August, and he was chosen after a series of teams had interviewed all five candidates, making recommendations on experience, fit for the department and other aspects. Buck will earn $150,000 in annual salary for the new role.
“Buck, his depth of experience…he has got experience across all disciplines and he is an exceptionally qualified guy,” Norrell said. “He stood out as being very well rounded and experienced.”
The selection of Buck was done, Norrell explained, after teams of township employees and fire department staff conducted extensive interviews with the five finalists. Included in the focus teams were also representatives from many county-wide agencies that the fire department works with on a regular basis such as the Montgomery County Hospital District, local EMS providers and others, he added.
“We actually brought in five (candidates) in late August for interviews. We had four teams of employees, township board members, members of the community and representatives from a number of different agencies,” Norrell said. “We felt at this time Mr. Buck was the best qualified person.”
With experience at fire departments in both Texas and North Carolina, Buck is a member of numerous professional organizations including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fore Protection Agency and the International Association of Firefighters. The release stated that he has experience working as a paramedic and firefighter and possesses certifications from numerous organizations including the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Buck was not available for comment on Thursday, but in the press release he expressed his excitement at the opportunity to lead what is considered one of the best fire departments in the state of Texas and has a coveted national ISO 1 rating.
“I am honored to have been selected as fire chief to serve the residents of The Woodlands and lead The Woodlands Fire Department, continuing the history of dedicated leadership provided by former Chief Benson and Interim Chief Doug Adams,” Buck stated in the press release. “I look forward to working together with the men and women of The Woodlands Fire Department to face the challenges of the next decade and beyond.”
Although there were five finalists, Norrell said the last two candidates were Buck and Adams, and that it was a difficult decision for all involved.
“Doug was one of the two finalists. Doug is also a qualified individual,” Norrell added. “What we did was choose the person that was the most qualified and the best fit for The Woodlands at this time.”