A new fire chief has been chosen to serve some of the developing islands around Charleston.
Colleen Walz, deputy chief of the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Bureau of Fire, was selected to oversee the St. John’s Fire District, the department announced Tuesday. She will start her new duties July 15.
The district covers Johns, Kiawah, Seabrook and Wadmalaw islands. It includes some of the most expensive houses outside downtown Charleston, as well as more modest homes that also need protection.
Walz said she is looking forward to the challenge.
“I got a chance to review the district (she visited the area while candidates were being considered), and I’ve been doing my homework,” she said Tuesday. “It’s a very unique area. First of all, I need to meet with the community and the stakeholders in that area and get a feeling of what it is they expect from the fire department and what we can actually provide. I just want to open up the lines of communication and see where we can meet on some common ground. I think it will be an exciting challenge for me, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Walz will succeed former Chief Karl Ristow, who moved to Maryland because his wife took a job there. Deputy Chief Jackie Stanley has been serving as interim chief since December.
Walz has more than 25 years of fire-service experience and leads the fire-prevention division for her department. She has a master’s degree in leadership and disaster preparedness.
A nine-member fire district commission picked Walz over three other finalists. They were Bruce Faust, deputy chief and fire marshal in Washington, D.C.; Philip Myer, former chief at Fauquier County Fire Rescue and Emergency Management in Virginia; and St. Andrews Fire and Rescue District Chief Mark Schrade.