WHITE SPRINGS — After barely a month on the job, David Prueter is out as White Springs fire chief.
Tommie Jones, White Springs’ interim town manager, and Vice Mayor Walter McKenzie met with Prueter on Nov. 21.
In the meeting, it was made clear by Jones and McKenzie that the town would be moving forward with hiring Kevin Pittman, the town’s former fire chief.
Members of the town council wanted Pittman to return prior to former Town Manager Stacy Tebo hiring Prueter in early October following an Oct. 4 interview. He was introduced to the council at its Oct. 8 meeting.
McKenzie apologized to Prueter, stating, “she put you into a position that you should have never been in to begin with.”
Prueter replied that he had every qualification to make him a good fire chief, including his experience and his professionalism.
After reading the termination letter drafted by both Jones and Town Attorney Megan Logan, Prueter resigned his volunteer status completely from the White Springs Fire Department.
Prueter said it was made very clear that the town did not want him there, even with his civilian and military experience as a firefighter and medic.
The termination letter states that Prueter is "not to access the Town’s Fire Station without express permission from the Interim Town Manager or the new Fire Chief.”
As such, Prueter, who was still on the volunteer roster of the WSFD, would not be able to respond to a fire without permission by Jones or a new chief.
The letter also mentions Nov. 16, when there was a fire call that Prueter was unable to respond to due to mandatory training with the Army Reserves that weekend.
Prueter was unable to contact Jones prior to that training due to previous conversations where Jones stated that he could not speak to Prueter.
The council and Jones were aware of the fact that Prueter was a Reservist with the U.S. Army Reserves since his hiring.
In addition to serving as White Springs’ fire chief, Prueter works full-time with Suwannee County Fire Rescue. When providing notice of a 24-hour shift with SCFR, Jones said it wouldn’t matter due to the town’s “new direction” with the fire department. Jones added the town only wanted volunteers who will be given verbal or written permission to be able to leave their full-time jobs in order to respond to calls for service in White Springs.
After Prueter was hired by Tebo, McKenzie stated in the town’s October meeting that he and the council would support any efforts to improve the services that White Springs Fire Department offered to help benefit the town. McKenzie also advised that Prueter should reach out to former WSFD volunteers in means of recruiting.
Prueter said he made efforts to recruit some of those former volunteers, but they replied that they would not rejoin the fire department as long as certain current members remained.