Meridian Fire Chief Anthony Clayton hit the ground running on his first day on the job.
A 27-year veteran of the department, Clayton, 51, says his top priority will be addressing the direct needs of the firefighters.
"My focus is going to be on the men. Making sure that we are professional. That we serve the people and the public and we do our job, and if I can get them, schools, and get them training, then that's what I'm going to do," Clayton said.
While addressing the direct needs of firefighters, such as them having proper equipment and higher salaries, Chief Clayton says he also is gearing up to address the needs of the newly annexed part of the city.
"We promised the people in the annexed area fire coverage," said the chief.
"The mayor and the CAO are well aware of this and I'm going to work with them and the city council, and we're going to try our best to get that coverage that they need as soon as we can."
In the future Clayton says this would mean hiring additional firefighters to cover that area, by possibly adding more at the fire station in north Meridian and/or by even building a fire station to cover the area.
Given the current budget restraints, Clayton says it's unknown at this time when more firefighters will be hired. However, he says what is known is that he is committed to staying within the department's budget.
While being the city's first African-American fire chief is historic, Chief Clayton says his priority is focusing on the work ahead.
"I'd like to be remembered as being the first progressive chief that wanted to really focus on the men. I don't want to really focus on skin color. I want to focus on ability," said Clayton. "Can you do the job?"