Meet Clermont’s New Fire Chief
Transformational Leader David Ezell to Begin his ‘Dream Job’CLERMONT (Oct. 16, 2019) – Clermont’s new fire chief is fired up for the job.
David Ezell takes over this week after the retirement of Carle Bishop, the city’s longest tenured volunteer-turned-employee of 49 years. A formal Change of Command ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 18 in Council Chambers, 685 W. Montrose St.; the public is invited.
“Hiring a new fire chief was a competitive process for the city due to the department’s success and strong reputation across the state," City Manager Darren Gray said. "However, David stood out to the hiring committee as the best fit for the Clermont Fire Department. He is highly qualified and brings an incredible amount of experience with him. We are thrilled to have him join the Choice of Champions, and I look forward to working with him as we take our agency to new heights together.”
Ezell said several offers were on the table for his next career move, but working for the City of Clermont was the obvious choice.
“This is my dream job,” Ezell said. “It just felt right.”
Clermont's new fire chief, David Ezell, at Fire Station 1
Ezell was impressed with City Manager Darren Gray’s leadership, including rebranding the city, and he was wowed by Clermont Fire Department’s accomplishments, having achieved international accreditation and an ISO Public Protection Class rating of 2.
“Chief Bishop has done a masterful job of turning a volunteer agency into a gold standard fire department,” Ezell said. “And meeting Darren sealed the deal for me.”
Ezell spent the last 25 years serving his hometown of Bradenton. He steadily rose through the ranks of the Bradenton Fire Department since 1994, being promoted to charge emergency medical technician in 1997, lieutenant in 2001, deputy chief in 2005 and assistant fire chief in 2011.
During his time with Bradenton, he redesigned the department’s computer systems, negotiated union contracts on both sides of the bargaining table and volunteered as a board member for an organization that trains leaders in the public safety community. His greatest accomplishment was drastically reducing turnover at the Bradenton agency.
“I helped shape the direction of the department,” he said. “It went from being a revolving door to a destination department.”
Ezell’s desire to advance to chief led to his recent job search.
“I’ve been ready for the job for quite a while, and with my former agency the timing wasn’t there,” he said.
When Ezell learned about Clermont’s opening, his next step became clear.
“I said, ‘That’s my job,’” he recalled. “There were a lot of parallels between Clermont and Bradenton.”
Ezell wasn’t always in the fire industry.
Out of high school, he enlisted in the U.S Navy to become a Navy SEAL. However, a devastating glacier-climbing accident took his military career off the table. He discovered his love of swimming during rehabilitation and has since become a marathon swimmer, tackling up to 4-mile swims in open waters across the state, including a Clermont triathlon in 1988.
Regrouping after his accident, Ezell studied engineering at the University of Florida and worked for a manufacturing company in Ocala. He also started a side business building networks and custom workstations for small businesses.
A friend kept inviting Ezell to check out firefighting, and once he did, there was no turning back. He found deep satisfaction in the field.
“We are there to help people during their worst times,” he said. “You train and learn as much as you can, and then on scene, you work with the tools and knowledge that you have to get the best outcome.”
Ezell and his wife of 13 years, Kristeen, are closing on a house in Clermont. Kristeen owns Visual Harmony Productions, a video marketing and advertising company. The couple has two cats, Sophia and Natalie; and two dogs, Evelyn and Vivian.
Ezell with his wife, Kristeen
For his first year as chief, Ezell plans to get to know the department and evaluate resources and needs. He plans to start quarterly organizational meetings with open participation.
As the city continues to grow, he’ll be evaluating personnel, stations and equipment as he seeks to maintain the department’s international accreditation and high ISO rating. Ezell also sees an opportunity to increase public outreach and to expand the focus from fire prevention to community risk reduction.
“I see a lot of challenges ahead,” Ezell said. “There’s going to have to be some smart growth here, but I’m a good planner. I’m always looking five to 10 years down the road.”
As for his leadership style?
“I mentored under transformational leaders,” Ezell said. “I’m big on empowering people to go out and do great things. My job is to develop the people here. If I can make someone better than me, then I did what I came to do.”