After more than 20 years as the man in charge, Williamsburg Fire Chief James Privett is planning to hang up his helmet and turnout gear. His last day on the job is scheduled for July 29.
“I decided it had been long enough. It is time to get out and try to enjoy life and get out and do a few things,” he said.
Privett, 59, said that his immediate plans after he retires are not to do much of anything for at least a while any way, except for keeping up his home and property, which he describes as “about a full-time job.”
He has served as fire chief since he was appointed in May 1995, replacing Bob Brown, and has worked at the fire department for nearly 35 years total.
Privett said the things he will miss the most are being around his fellow firefighters on a daily basis and getting out and helping people.
“It has been a pleasure being chief and working around a lot of the guys I have worked with. It has all gone rather well over the years except for a few small things,” he said. “You do something this long it gets in your blood. I guess it will always be in my blood being a firefighter.”
Although he has enjoyed being a firefighter for more than three decades, Privett said he will probably “take a break” from that for at least a little while and doubts he will return as a volunteer firefighter any time soon. Maybe never.
Privett said there are a few things he is most proud of during his tenure as fire chief.
One of the things at the top of the list is lowering the city’s ISO rating from Class 6 down to Class 5, which has a direct effect of lowering fire insurance rates for Williamsburg residents.
“It is a big accomplishment whenever you can do something like that,” he noted.
Privett said that his worst moment as chief was probably in 2000 when the Family Dollar Store, which was located next to IGA, burned down.
“We had some pretty bad things going down with two or three firemen inside the building at that time. That was probably one of my worst few moments I have had as chief,” Privett said. “I have been fortunate. To be chief and to be in the department as long as I have, we have never really had anybody hurt too bad. We’ve not had too many ever sent to the hospital even for smoke inhalation or anything. Knock on wood I feel grateful that things have gone as well as they have. We have had some major fires in this area.”
Privett said it would be tough to sum up his best moment as chief.
“I’ve had a lot of good times and a lot of good moments,” he added. “Everybody works together pretty well. It is a good job. I can’t knock it a bit.”
Will be missed
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said that Privett has run a good department and would be missed.
“The one thing I think you can say about Chief Privett is he absolutely loves the fire department,” Harrison noted. “He works all the time. He takes his job seriously.”
Harrison said that in his opinion, the two biggest accomplishments during Privett’s tenure have been lowering the city’s fire rating, and the purchase of three new fire trucks for the department.
Harrison said another thing that stands out about Privett is that he is a “penny pincher,” which is a good thing to have in a department head.
“If you ask him to cut back on something, he may try to cut back a little too far. As with anybody that retires he will be missed,” Harrison added. “I hate to see him go but I understand. We will pick it up and move on.”