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Columbia fire chief to retire April 1


After more than 25 years with the Columbia Fire Department, Chief Clayton Farr Jr. said Tuesday that he will retire April 1.

Farr has served as the chief for the department since October 2022 when he was promoted after a nationwide search. Since 1998, Farr has worked in multiple positions in the department including assistant fire chief and interim chief.

"It has been the honor and privilege of my lifetime to serve the community I call home and the fire department I love," Farr said in a news release. "I have tremendous respect for our organization's distinguished past and have high expectations for a very bright future."

During Farr's tenure as chief, the department opened Fire Station 11 and addressed ways to enhance the department's response times and recruiting efforts, according to the release. The department also announced it plans to open fire station 10 sometime in 2024 and was given the green light to begin an in-house EMT training course.

An interim chief was not named in the release.

Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Heidenreich said he is proud to have been a part of Farr's staff.

"We're very proud of him and his accomplishments, I'm proud to be part of his staff, and this department is certainly in a better place than when he took over in that position," Heidenreich said.

However, others hope Farr's retirement brings more stability to the department.

According to the City of Columbia's website, Farr is the fourth permanent fire chief the city has had in the past ten years. Previous chiefs also have only stayed a few years each.

  • 1988-2011: William Markgraf
  • 2011-2015: Charles Witt
  • 2015-2019: Randall White
  • 2019-2022: Andy Woody
  • 2022-2024: Clayton Farr Jr.

President of the Columbia Professional Firefighters Union, Zack Privette, said the constant turnover in leadership has created a chaotic atmosphere for Columbia firefighters.

"It has been difficult on our guys," Privette said. "They're ready to just be at work and not have this consistent, seemingly changing view from leadership."

He said Farr's retirement announcement was not shocking news, as the City knew Farr was close to retirement when he was promoted to chief in 2022.

"There's been a strained relationship with the firefighters and Chief Farr before he was appointed, but I think it was a kind of known thing that he was going to retire," Privette said.

Privette hopes City Manager De'Carlon Seewood doesn't act too quickly to find a new chief, and instead takes his time finding someone who will stick with the department.

"Hopefully, we'll work with the city manager and make sure that our next fire chief is here and can stabilize some of this leadership turnover that we've seen," Privette said.

Meanwhile, Heidenreich said it's still very early in the process to begin talking about a search for Farr's replacement. However, he said he can ensure there will be no interruptions in the department's service.

"Chief Farr has been a critical role in that for a long time, but as he's able to retire, I can assure the community that the stability and strength of the Columbia Fire Department will remain the same," Heidenreich said.

Along with serving at the fire department, Farr has also been an investigator with the Columbia Police Department, Boone County Sheriff's Office and Southern Boone Fire Protection District. He's been a member of the Mid-Missouri Bomb Squad since its formation more than 15 years ago, the release says.

His retirement announcement comes the same day the department announced it had been accredited for five more years.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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