Fire District Holds Change of Command Ceremony
Article provided by the Anna Maria Island Sun - Pat Copeland, Sun Staff Writer
HOLMES BEACH – Island and Manatee County elected and fire officials, family and friends of outgoing West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price and incoming Fire Chief Tom Sousa attended the Change of Command and Retirement ceremonies last week at Station 1 in Holmes Beach. Deputy Chief Brett Pollock led the ceremony, which began with the presentation of colors and the pike pole, which has been used by firefighters since the 1600s to pull down ceilings and walls and ventilate structures. The invocation was given by Cori Rigney, wife of Captain/Training Officer Ben Rigney. Flowers were presented to the wives of the two chiefs, and chief’s coins were presented to Price’s three children and sister. Price then personally greeted each firefighter.
The honor guard passed the district’s colors and pike pole to Price, who passed them to Sousa, relinquishing his responsibility and authority and charging the new chief with the same responsibility and authority.Pollock said the colors represent the heritage and history of the fire service, as well as the unity and loyalty of its firefighters, and the pike pole symbolizes the office of the fire chief and represents the values of the district – excellence, commitment, courage and compassion.
Sousa’s wife, Annette, pinned the chief’s badge on him, and Fire Commission Chair David Bishop administered the oath of office.
Price thanked everyone for witnessing the district’s first change of command ceremony and said, “It marks a change of leadership for West Manatee Fire and Rescue.
“My tenure as fire chief has been filled with memorable events beginning with my first day as a volunteer, where men and women of this community served others because there was a need.” He spoke of the changes through the years and thanked the fire commissioners he had worked for as well as Pollock, the battalion chiefs, the administrative staff and Pam Reed, whose husband Brian died in the line of duty. He welcomed Sousa, a friend for 31 years, into his job and said, “It will be your job to maintain what’s been done, but also to take it to the next level to meet these ever changing needs. “It also will be your job to take care of those who give of themselves on a daily basis. These men and women give unselfishly every day, and I don’t believe there’s a better group of firefighters, officers and staff.”
Sousa thanked his wife for her support, the board for having confidence in him to lead the organization and the district personnel for supporting him a training officer. “I want to take the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained as a training officer to the chief’s position. Special thanks to Chief Price for giving me an opportunity to achieve my goal.”
This was followed by the retirement ceremony in which Price was presented with gifts from the district, the Manatee County Fire Commissioner’s Association, Cedar Hammock Fire District, the three Island cities and others.