New Ocala fire chief quietly announced

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Posted July 12, 2021 | By Carlos Medina,

Clint Welborn [Submitted]

Two weeks after Shane Alexander was fired as Ocala Fire Rescue chief, the department officially announced its new leader.

Clint Welborn was officially introduced as chief on July 9 after serving as interim chief after Alexander was fired by City Manager Sandra Wilson on June 25.

Welborn joined OFR in 1998 as a firefighter and eventually earned his paramedic certification. In 2019 he became the department’s operations chief.

“Today, we are pleased to announce that this department veteran, with nearly 23 years of service, has accepted the position of Fire Chief,” a July 9 post on the Ocala Fire Rescue Facebook page stated.

The city’s communication department did not send out a press release about the move.

The city did not post the position, citing its “discretionary right not to post a particular opening.”

The latest move comes after Wilson, on the advice of Assistant City Manager Ken Whitehead, terminated Alexander for reportedly undermining the city council and the city manager to the detriment of the organization and eroding trust in the organization by creating a counter-productive and uncomfortable work environment for city staff, among other reasons, according to Alexander’s termination letter.

While several members of the Ocala City Council questioned the propriety of Alexander’s firing at the July 6 council meeting, a move to fire Wilson failed.

The council voted 3-2 against the motion, which was put forward by Council President Justin Grabelle.

Councilman Matt Wardell voted with Grabelle. Councilmen Jay Musleh, Brent Malever and Ire Bethea voted against the motion and said Wilson had their confidence to continue as city manager.

Despite numerous calls by the public to reinstate Alexander during the meeting, the council does not have the power to take that step. Only the city manager has the power to hire and fire subordinates. The council only has oversight over the city manager, clerk and auditor.

During the meeting, Paul Donnelly, Alexander’s attorney signaled a lawsuit in response to Alexander not being reinstated.

“That is a violation of law. This is a profound mistake for the city of Ocala. We were hoping you would correct it and avoid this mistake from getting worse,” he said. “(Alexander) wants to stay here, and he will stay here, and he will be back as fire chief.”

As of Monday, there was no record of a lawsuit filed in either circuit or federal court.


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