"Without these people sitting out in this audience, there would be no fire departments. There would be no volunteers, no LEMA outside volunteers," said Lauderdale County's District 5 supervisor, Ray Boswell.
Boswell was reacting to a large crowd of volunteer firefighters who came to the supervisors meeting Monday to protest what they believed might be the naming of former Meridian fire chief Bunky Partridge as director of Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, or LEMA.
The supervisors have been holding informal discussions with city officials aimed at possibly combining both emergency operations.
"I'm concerned about the LEMA director. It's apparent to me we've got to do a change in it. And that's going to happen," said District 2 supervisor Jimmie Smith.
Supervisors say that the two jobs are too much for one man to do justice to both. That's where the trouble starts. Some firefighters are under the impression that Partridge is being considered for the overall LEMA job and they are strongly opposed.
"The animosity that you see right now between the volunteers and yourself, city officials, city homeland security and things like that is not healthy for Lauderdale County," remarked district 1 supervisor Eddie Harper.
Smith emphasized that Butler's fire coordinator's job is safe and that no one has been selected for the proposed position. Firefighters later conceded they would likely accept splitting the jobs, if the new chief was someone other than Bunky Partridge or former LEMA director Eddie Ivy.
"I'm sure we could. Yes, that's speaking for myself. I'm sure we could, but speaking for all these other people, I'm sure they would get along with it," said Jerry Carney, a volunteer firefighter with Long Creek.
"We could live with somebody besides the two that's been mentioned," said Lauderdale fire chief, Larry Hatcher.
Butler said he also could support the right person.
"You need a person who has good experience and also who is willing and knowledgeable and try to work with all these people who are out there," Butler said.
Attorneys are drawing up an interlocal agreement for city and county consideration.