The Brownwood Fire Department hosted a pinning ceremony Friday afternoon for its recently installed chief, Eric Hicks, and for three other firefighters who have been recently promoted.
Jody Horton has been promoted to assistant fire chief, William Campbell was promoted to lieutenant and Jesse Castillo was promoted to driver.
The department also named Justin Cadenhead as firefighter of the year.
In a ceremony held in the Central Fire Station’s large engine bay, City Manager Emily Crawford introduced Hicks, who retired as chief in De Kalb, Illinois and moved with his wife, Kathy, to Texas where their son and two daughters live.
Hicks was named Brownwood’s fire chief in November following the resignation of former Chief Eddy Wood and began working in January. The assistant fire chief’s position was also vacated with the resignation of Darrell Johnston.
Crawford said fire department employees have “stepped up and worked extra hard, and pulled your weight for the department.”
She said Hicks is “a very intelligent person. He’s very creative at looking at a problem and seeing it from multiple different directions. He has new ideas every day. He is very dedicated to the fire service. He is already dedicated to the Brownwood Fire Department and to our community.”
Hicks said after only two months in Brownwood, he’s come to “greatly love this city and its dedicated firefighters. From an outsider’s perspective I have found the members of this organization second to none. They are well trained, very dedicated to the city and willing to do what is necessary to get the job done.
“It’s been a trying year for these dedicated professionals with the departure of their entire command staff and the selection of a new command staff. They did not falter and they kept the train on the tracks, and continued to provide the high level of service the citizens of Brownwood have come to expect.”
Hicks thanked Fire Marshal Buddy Preston for the job Preston did while serving as interim chief before Hicks was hired.
Hicks’ son, Morgan, who lives near Dallas, and daughter Cully, a University of Texas student, stood near their father and Cully pinned Hicks’ fire chief’s badge on his dress blue jacket. Hicks’ wife was unable to attend because she was teaching at an out-of-town conference.
As the ceremony continued, Sarah Horton, Mashaun Campbell and Natalie Castillo pinned badges onto the jackets of their husbands.
As the ceremony concluded, Hicks said he always reminds new officers and drivers of three things: “Do what is right, do your best and treat others as you want to be treated, and you’ll be successful in that position,” Hicks said.
In an interview after the ceremony, Hicks said he’s honored to be here. “This is kind of my second career,” Hicks said. “I love the city so far and I love the residents and the staff here. It’s a great organization to be a part of.”
Hicks worked for the DeKalb Fire Department for 30 years including seven as chief. Hicks said the Illinois city had financial issues and decided to “attrition off” one of the two management staff of the fire department. Hicks elected to retire rather than see the assistant fire chief lose his job.
“I already had my time in,” Hicks said. “My family’s all down here. I couldn’t let my number-two guy get attritioned off and I would stay. This was a good opportunity for me.”
Hicks said he has family including his son and two daughters throughout Texas, and he and his wife decided it was “the perfect time to head south. Brownwood’s a great location for us and it fit all my checklists of where I wanted to be.”