GAINESVILLE, Ga. (Sept. 16, 2021) – Longtime Gainesville Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough has announced he will retire Dec. 31.
Chief Yarbrough has served the City 37 faithful years in different capacities with the Gainesville Fire Department (GFD), leaving behind a legacy of devoted public service.
“After careful consideration, I decided that this is the right time for both my family and me to make this change in our lives,” Chief Yarbrough wrote in a retirement letter to City officials. “Words alone cannot express how much of an honor it has been for me to serve this City, and the community that I grew up in, for the past 37 years. It is with appreciation to you (City officials), the citizens of Gainesville, and the men and women of the Gainesville Fire Department that I have had this opportunity to do a job that I loved every day.”
Chief Yarbrough has served as fire chief since March 1, 2013. Having started as a firefighter in 1984, he worked his way up to become the first African-American chief in Gainesville’s 200-year history.
“Jerome leaves a great legacy and tremendous future ahead for GFD,” said Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey. “Through his leadership, GFD has maintained the ISO Rating of 1, developed a well-trained and professional staff, and ensured the department has procured world-class-level equipment and facilities. While he will be tough to replace, he has laid a solid foundation for the future leadership of GFD.”
"It's always a bittersweet moment when you have an employee as dedicated as Jerome Yarbrough leave the City to enter a new chapter of life," said Mayor Danny Dunagan. "We'll miss him greatly, but we wish him the very best in his retirement and thank him for everything he's done to make the Gainesville Fire Department what it is today."
Reflecting on his tenure with the City, Chief Yarbrough stated he’s confident GFD has accomplished a great deal, even when faced with challenges.
“No fire department can succeed by itself,” he wrote. “The support of the department’s personnel, [City management], the City Council and the citizens of Gainesville has been unwavering in their commitment to see that this department has what it needs to succeed and grow, even through difficult economic times. The support and faith in our department has been the foundation for [its] continued success.”
For Chief Yarbrough, “It has been a distinct pleasure to serve as fire chief of the Gainesville Fire Department.
“I have been fortunate to have been a member of one the noblest of professions, and have nothing but respect and pride in the brothers and sisters I have served with and now leave behind,” he wrote.
The City has already initiated the process of selecting Chief Yarbrough’s successor, and hopes to promote from within.
“As my career with the Gainesville Fire Department ends, I leave with the confidence that the department will continue to be led by dedicated, motivated and professional leaders,” Chief Yarbrough wrote. “I believe there is always a benefit when fresh ideas and perspectives are brought to the table in any organization and feel the next individual who steps into the chief’s role will be able to build upon our achievements.”
A look at Chief Yarbrough’s resume shows a dedication to public service long before he served his hometown of Gainesville. Yarbrough served as a staff sergeant with the United States Army from 1976-2002 and as a deputy sheriff with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office from 1981-84. In addition to firefighter (1984-97), his time with GFD also included working as a fire inspector (1997-2002), fire marshal/battalion chief (2002-08) and deputy fire chief (2008-12).
Chief Yarbrough’s passions have also included serving on the boards of directors for Safe Kids Northeast Georgia and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, as well as the Lanier Technical College Advisory and City of Gainesville Plan A Retirement boards. He’s also been a youth football coach for Gainesville Parks & Recreation.
Born and raised in Gainesville, Chief Yarbrough has been married to Deborah Yarbrough for many years. Together, they have five children: Chauvis, 38; Jeromy, 31; Tevin, 29; Gracey, 20; and Bailey, 19.