“I’m just ready. Mentally, I feel it is right. I’m not upset with anyone, and my last two years with the department have been extremely positive,” said retiring Quincy Fire Chief Howard “Bubba” Smith. He was talking about his retirement, after 32 years, with the city of Quincy as a public safety officer and a firefighter.
Smith’s first job with the city really began as a teenager when he was a lifeguard at the Jackson Heights pool.
“Back in 1980 when I came to work as a fulltime employee, the police and fire departments were one unit. Public Safety Officers, as we were called then, were dually trained in law enforcement and firefighting. When the department separated into police and fire, we had the opportunity to choose which one we wanted to go with, and I chose the fire department,” he said.
The moved proved to be a good one for Smith and a good fit. He rapidly moved up the career ladder as firefighter, fire inspector, fire marshal, assistant fire chief and fire chief.
“When Robert “Shorty” Joyner retired, I was looking around for a chief. I was telling Joyner about my search. He asked me why I was looking for a chief when I already had one. I asked him who was he talking about and he said, ‘Bubba Smith,’ and I promoted him to chief,” said Willie Earl Banks, former city manager.
Smith, who has served the city longer than most, said he’s going home but will not be too far from the city if he is needed.
“I promise I will answer my phone if anyone calls,” he said, adding that he serves on several committees with the city and he plans to continue volunteering.
Smith’s official retirement date was Feb. 28; however, the city held a luncheon in his honor at the new fire station on Joe Adams Road on Feb. 27.
During the regular Feb. 25 meeting, commissioners unanimously passed Resolution NO. 1296-2013, naming Fire Station No. 2 the Howard E. Smith Fire Station.
“The city of Quincy has been hoping to put a fire station on the south side of the city due to railroad tracks that run through the city. Because of his vision, ingenuity and creativity, he saw the opportunity to provide a new fire station and filed a successful grant to get the new fire station built,” said Mayor Angela Sapp.
Groundbreaking for the new station was held July 27, 2012. At the time, Smith said it was an accomplishment for the city and would offer extra fire protection to the southern part of the city, Interstate 10 and Wetumpka.
“This is the first fire station built in the city since 1963. Before you have anything, you have to have a dream, and Chief Smith has that dream and today we have this building named after Chief Smith. He is one in a legacy of fire chiefs for our city since 1887,” said City Manager Jack McLean.
“It has been a pleasure working for you and with you,” Smith said. “This (city employment) has been home and I’ve tried to treat it like home.”