VALDOSTA — The atmosphere in the Women’s Building Monday afternoon was full of congratulatory remarks from the community and an emotional goodbye from Valdosta Fire Chief Freddie Broome.
The farewell party was hosted by the Valdosta Fire Department and the Valdosta Fire Citizens Academy, as the city gathered to bid their adieus to the resigning fire chief.
Broome will be the new fire chief for the City of South Fulton starting June 17. Before he takes on his upcoming role, he took the stage Monday to recognize the support he’s received in Valdosta.
“When people say that expression, give someone their flowers while they still can enjoy them,” a teary-eyed Broome said in a speech. “Over the last two weeks, I’ve received so many flowers. It’s overwhelming.”
As he fought to hold back emotions during his speech, the crowd supported him through applause.
“We love you, Chief,” Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody said aloud.
Broome went on to thank the city and spoke a little about its impact on him.
City Manager Mark Barber, Mayor John Gayle, Sarah Lowe on behalf of the citizens academy, Public Works Director Richard Hardy, Lowndes County 911 Director Ashley Tye and Fire Marshal James Clinkscales all gave speeches.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Boutwell will take the reins following Broome’s departure.
He spoke of Broome’s accomplishments while at the VFD including increasing emergency medical services, establishing the Fire Citizens Academy and helping the VFD to become ISO Class 1.
ISO stands for Insurance Service Office and Class 1 means the VFD provides the highest level of service and response for the community.
“Chief Broome was a phenomenal asset to the department,” Boutwell said. “He came in with big new ideas and was able to implement a lot of those and we were able to benefit from a lot of the ideas that he brought to the city.”
He said though the department is excited for Broome’s new opportunity, his exit from the VFD is bittersweet.
“We’re excited for the City of South Fulton to get Chief Broome because he’s going to be able to do great things, but at the same time, we’re very sad that we’re losing him,” Boutwell said. “He’s been a great chief, and we know we’re all going to miss him.”
Lt. Shelley Miller described the changes that Broome made when he first became fire chief five years ago as tremendous.
He highlighted Broome clarifying ranking descriptions in the department so each VFD member specifically knew what they were supposed to do.
“We’re happy that Chief Broome is looking for a greater challenge going up north to the City of South Fulton and wish him the best,” Miller said. “Working under him the past five years has been fantastic.”
During the ceremony, Broome was given a framed ax with the words courage, honor and dedication on it, by the citizens academy.
He was also presented with a scrapbook made by community member Jessica Culpepper, a crystal eagle and a tie by the VFD and a first-responder’s award by city officials.
Battalion Chief Jason Rowan, who called Broome a visionary leader, urged Broome to “take a little piece of Valdosta with him.”