It was a family affair at the Fire Training Center on Martin Luther King Blvd. on Friday. Surrounded by city officials, friends, his wife and two of his three kids, Rhea Cooper humbly accepted his new role as Lubbock Fire Chief.
Cooper said, "We have a great fire department. We already do a good job. So I'm not looking to make any drastic changes."
A 29-year veteran, Cooper has been serving as interim fire chief for the past six months. And in that six months, Cooper has been trying to drop the "interim" from his title.
City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld said, "We started with about 15 candidates."
And it would take months for the city to make a decision.
Cooper said, "It was pretty exciting. I had to call my wife. That's the first thing I asked, ' need to tell my wife'."
Dumbauld added, "Rhea's the best choice because he has all of the skills for the job. He's the most interested in working as a team with all the public safety in our community which is a very difficult task to keep the communication going."
And the safety of the public and his firefighters are Cooper's top concern.
Cooper said, "I am very humbled by getting this opportunity to fulfill this role. It is a very serious role if you think about what just happened in South Carolina and I don't take that lightly."
By the end of the year, Cooper says the 2 in, 2 out goal will be complete having at least 2 firefighters inside the scene and two with the truck, but that's not all he's working toward.
Cooper added, "Let's get our guys, the men in women out there who serve, and get them in the top ten as far as salary."
And even adding new stations.
"We're also going to be opening another fire station, south of town at about 117th and Quaker. So we've already got that on the drawing boards," Cooper said.
Lubbock Fire Chief Retires
After almost 30 years with the Lubbock Fire Department, the chief is saying goodbye.