‘Godspeed, my friend’: New chief takes over Atlanta’s fire department

With little fanfare and a brief ceremony that was livestreamed over YouTube on Wednesday afternoon, Roderick Smith assumed command of Atlanta’s fire department.

About 150 people tuned in online as outgoing fire Chief Randall Slaughter bid farewell one last time before handing over his radio and badge to his successor.

Slaughter, 51, officially retired after three decades with Atlanta Fire Rescue. The Atlanta native and Marine Corps veteran was among a small number of employees to have served in each division of the department and hold every rank.

Former Atlanta fire Chief Randall Slaughter retired Wednesday after three decades with the department.
Former Atlanta fire Chief Randall Slaughter retired Wednesday after three decades with the department.

Credit: Atlanta Fire Rescue

Credit: Atlanta Fire Rescue

He had been chief since taking over in an interim role in February 2018, according to his bio on the city’s website.

Smith, 53, has been with the department for 24 years, most recently serving as deputy chief of technical services. The Atlanta Public Schools graduate has a degree in finance from Morehouse College and a master’s in public administration from Columbus State University. He’ll oversee 1,100 employees across 36 fire stations as Atlanta’s 22nd fire chief.

Roderick Smith became chief of Atlanta Fire Rescue on Wednesday following a "transfer of command" ceremony. He's been with the department for 24 years.
Roderick Smith became chief of Atlanta Fire Rescue on Wednesday following a "transfer of command" ceremony. He's been with the department for 24 years.

Credit: Atlanta Fire Rescue

Credit: Atlanta Fire Rescue

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Dressed in their full uniforms, Smith and Slaughter stood facing each other inside department headquarters during Wednesday’s “Transfer of Command” ceremony.

As the clock struck 5 p.m., Slaughter pulled out his radio, addressing dispatchers for the last time.

“Pursuant to my retirement, I am permanently transferring command of the organization to the new fire chief, Roderick Smith,” he said, taking off his brass chief’s badge and attaching it to Smith’s jacket.

A woman on the other end of the radio replied as the broadcast went out to firefighters across the city.

“Attention all companies, attention all companies” she called. “After 30 years of service, fire Chief Randall B. Slaughter is retiring and would like to thank the men and women of AFRD for their tremendous dedication to service during his tenure as fire chief. He asks that the same level of dedication and commitment extend into the Smith administration.”

Smith then picked up his new radio, telling dispatchers and firefighters that he had assumed command of the department.

With that, Slaughter saluted his successor and said “Godspeed, my friend,” before turning on his heel and walking out of the room.

Speaking briefly, Smith addressed the crowd for the first time in his new role as chief. “I look forward to leading the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department into the future, (and) wish Godspeed to fire Chief Randall Slaughter,” he said.

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