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Heaton names new fire chief

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By Randy Patrick

Billy Mattingly has been named Bardstown’s new fire chief, but it’s not the Billy Mattingly who is chief of Nelson County Fire and Rescue.

Mayor Dick Heaton announced his appointment of the retired battalion chief of the Okolona Fire Department in a press release Wednesday.

Billy N. Mattingly, 59, is the older brother of Anthony Mattingly, former chief of the old Bardstown-Nelson County department, who is now a sergeant for the department in Worthington in Jefferson County. He is a native of Bardstown and was once a volunteer here for the city and county.

He began his career as an emergency medical technician with Jefferson County EMS, then became a firefighter with the Okolona department in 1991. He worked his way up through the ranks, to lieutenant in 1993, captain in 1995, and battalion chief in 1997. He served in that position for 20 years before retiring last December.

As battalion chief, Mattingly said he oversaw the administrative and operational duties of three fire houses with 18 firefighters total.

Heaton will submit his appointment to the Bardstown City Council for approval at its meeting Tuesday.

The mayor appointed a selection committee to accept applications, interview candidates and recommend three finalists. The final three were all from different departments, according to Human Resources Director Greg Ashworth.

Heaton interviewed the three, did some vetting and then chose Mattingly.

“The search committee did a great job with supplying me with three outstanding finalist candidates,” Heaton said Wednesday.

One thing that sold him on Mattingly, he said, was that he brings 26 years of experience to bear, which is important because the Bardstown Fire Department is “fairly young” and needs experienced leadership, he said.

Okolona is also similar to Bardstown Fire in that its firefighters are EMTs, and its territory includes major industries, including Ford Motor Co., UPS and General Electric.

“That will bode well for us with all of our distilleries and heavy industry,” Heaton said.

He also said he liked that Mattingly has local ties.

“His roots are here,” he said.

Mattingly grew up on Broadway, near the city fire station, and used to hang around the station where his brother Anthony was a volunteer firefighter when he was still in high school.

“I taught him everything he knows,” his younger brother said jokingly.

“I think they chose a good person to lead them into the future,” Anthony said. “He’s got the heart and passion for it” as well as the experience.

“I’m looking forward to it,” the new chief said Wednesday. “I’ve got a lot of ideas I’d like to implement.”

Mattingly believes the Bardstown Fire Department is moving in the right direction by being a fully staffed, around-the-clock professional fire protection service, he said, and serving as a first-response backup to Nelson County EMS. It has made those transitions in far less time than Okolona did, and has “come through with flying colors,” he said.

Mattingly said that coming back to Bardstown for him is coming home. One of his first jobs was as a dispatcher for the city’s police, and he was a volunteer firefighter here for about five years in the late 1990s. He knows many of the firefighters not only because of his local roots but because the two departments have worked closely together on training and mutual assistance.

Former Bardstown Fire Chief Marlin Howard served under him in Okolona.

The other Billy Mattingly, chief of Nelson County’s private, mostly volunteer service, said the city made a good choice.

“We’re looking forward to working with him,” he said.

The city chief said he wants to work with all of the fire departments in the county.

Mattingly is replacing former Bardstown Fire Chief Randy Walker, who left in October without any explanation and has returned with his wife to Florida, where he was previously a city fire chief. Asst. Chief Chuck Montgomery has been the interim chief during the search for Walker’s replacement, and he made the announcement to the staff Wednesday, Heaton said.