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Oswego mayor names new fire chief

Payne Horning
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow, right, has hired Randy Griffin to lead the city's fire department.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow has hired a new chief for the city's fire department. The change in leadership comes at a tumultuous time for the Oswego Fire Department.

DeWitt Fire Chief Randy Griffin has been selected to lead the Oswego Fire Department. Griffin, who currently lives 25 minutes outside of Oswego in Palermo, started his career as a firefighter more than 25 years ago. Barlow touted Griffin's resume, noting his time as a state and local liaison at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

But what Barlow likes most about Griffin is that Griffin will bring a fresh perspective to the department.

"I brought in someone from the outside because I didn’t want the thought of preconceived notions, so he’s certainly not going to be on a leash and that’s the point of bringing someone in from the outside," Barlow said. "I trust him. He’ll give me accurate information so we can make the right decisions."

Barlow's relationship with the city's former fire chief Jeff McCrobie became strained last year as the mayor pushed through a budget that cut 16 firefighter positions. And things only got worse when Barlow issued an executive order that changed how the Oswego Fire Department awarded overtime shifts. Barlow said at the time that the fire department needed to be reduced to more accurately reflect the size of the community it served.

Griffin says he has experience reorganizing fire departments in Kansas City and Houston.

"I think that’s one of the reasons mayor Barlow selected me," Griffin said. "Someone who can come in and take a look at the facts, the volume, the threats and come up with the right number that’s sustainable. How do you strike the right balance? That’s what I’m here to do."

But Griffin says boosting morale will be one of his first priorities when he takes over at the end of March. He says that challenge was one of the most appealing reasons to apply for this job.

"I do know a lot of the people from the Oswego Fire Department and I think I can help in the situation given what they’ve been through," Griffin said.

John Geraci, who leads the local Oswego firefighter's union, says he was disappointed that Barlow did not hire one of the department's current employees. But Geraci says he is optimistic about the future under Griffin's leadership.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.