Effective Monday, a new fire chief will serve the city of Jacksonville.
Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher has named Alan Laughy, 41, to the post. He replaces long-time fire chief John Vanderhoof who recently announced his retirement.
“I am very excited to have Mr. Laughy as Jacksonville’s next fire chief,” said Fletcher.
Laughy currently resides with his wife and three boys in Cabot but he will be moving to Jacksonville.
“A condition of being hired was that I would move to the city of Jacksonville within one year,” Laughy said.
For the past two years, he has served as the assistant chief in the Little Rock Air Force Base Fire Department. Prior to his time as assistant chief, he served as a department captain.
Fletcher said he chose Laughy over a field of eight candidates/finalists.
“There were 20 applicants for the position,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said he was very impressed with Laughy’s enthusiasm for the opening.
“It was quite apparent he wasn’t just applying for a job,” Fletcher said. “He had a passion.”
Laughy said he was inspired by Fletcher’s passion for Jacksonville.
“You have great leadership in Jacksonville at the present time,” the incoming fire chief said.
Both Laughy and Fletcher said during the interviewing process they could see the enthusiasm and vision that the other man had for the community of Jacksonville.
Laughy said he had always wanted to be a firefighter even during his days as a high school student in the 1980s in New Hampshire.
“In New Hampshire, you have to be 21 years old to be a firefighter,” Laughy said.
Laughy’s father was enlisted in the Air Force during his high school years and he expressed to him his desire to become a firefighter.
“He told me if I joined the Air Force I could be a firefighter right away and they would pay for my college,” Laughy said. “That is all it took. I have been a firefighter ever since.”
Laughy said he likes being a firefighter because he gets to help people.
Laughy said being a firefighter on an Air Force Base could be very challenging.
“You have to have just about every type of training and certification you can imagine,” he said.
Laughy said he thought very highly of former chief Vanderhoof.
“I knew him professionally,” Laughy said. “He was very personable and had good interpersonal communication skills. He was easy to get along with on joint training between the Little Rock Air Force Base and the city of Jacksonville. He was very interested in the partnership between the Little Rock Air Force Base and the city of Jacksonville.
Laughy said he hopes to bring more excitement, certification, and training to a department that has already had an ample amount of training.
“Hopefully the fire department can grow as the city grows,” Laughy said.
Laughy said he has met with about 15-20 Jacksonville city firefighters so far.