For more than half of his life, Fire Chief Jamie Baggett has been a firefighter. He became chief at Pea Ridge Dec. 1, 2013. Now, he's stepping down as chief.
Over the past 25 years, he's continued to train and add certificates including firefighter 1 and 2, emergency medical technician and paramedic. He began working for Avoca Fire Department in 1994 and has worked for Northeast Benton County Volunteer Fire Department, Fort Smith, Bentonville, XNA and Bella Vista fire departments over the next two and a half decades with a brief respite from 2006-2008.
Baggett, 42, who announced his resignation as chief of Pea Ridge in a letter to Mayor Jackie Crabtree on Jan. 28 and posted a shorter letter on social media, said he plans to continue to work on the Pea Ridge Department as a paramedic. He is also a full-time employee with the Bella Vista Fire Department.
"I feel like we have made some incredible improvements over the past five years with the level of service provided to the citizens," Baggett wrote in his letter, adding that his number one priority was the safety of the men and women who work with him. "At the end of the day, I want what everyone wants, for them all to go home to their families unharmed."
Baggett expressed frustration with the financing of the department saying that when he broaches the needs of the department, his decisions are not respected and the needs are viewed as "wants" instead of as needs.
"I am constantly being reminded ... that Sandy Button maintains that the fire department owes the city going back before I even took over the department. How are we to move forward when we are constantly looking back?" he wrote.
Button, city clerk, said the Fire Department is not under the city general portion of the city's ledger.
"They have their own money. They're not under city general. That was the way it was set up long before I got here," Button said, explaining that revenue for the Fire Department comes from fire dues, county EMS funding and a portion of the city sales tax. She said that when the Pea Ridge portion of the county EMS fund was larger, the Fire Department repaid a portion of the money owed to city general several years ago.
"We do loan the Fire Department money for payroll," she said. "We're going to make sure their bills get paid."
Baggett wrote: "I am at a point where I enjoy helping citizens as a paramedic and stepping down would allow me to perform this duty more. I appreciate all the support that has been given to me by the fire department."
The mayor named assistant fire chief Dino Collins as interim fire chief.
Collins was honored in November 2018 for 25 years of service to the Pea Ridge Fire Department. Collins was one of two applicants (the other being Baggett) for the fire chief position when former fire chief Frank Rizzio resigned in November 2013.General News on 02/06/2019
Print Headline: Baggett resigns; Collins appointed