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Slay appoints Jenkerson as new fire chief

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(UPI photo, Bill Greenblatt)
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Jenkerson

By Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has announced the appointment of Dennis Jenkerson as the replacement for demoted fire chief Sherman George.

The position of fire chief has been front and center in St. Louis city racial politics for some time now.

When Slay demoted Sherman George, the department's first black chief, black firefighters were outraged. George resigned soon afterward.

Now, with the promotion of Jenkerson over Charles Coyle, a higher-ranking black candidate, Slay again has to defend his decision.

"Appointing a fire chief, or a police chief, or a public works director or a street department director because of his or her race is wrong," Slay said.

"It is illegal and it not in the best interests of the people who rely on the fire department."

Members of the black firefighters group F.I.R.E claim that Jenkerson is a personal friend of Mayor Slay and the promotion amounts to blatant cronyism.

Captain Wayne Luster is with F.I.R.E.

"I'll put it to you like this, nobody has talked to F.I.R.E, the mayor has done everything the white firemen want. I think what happened was, the mayor wanted a white fire chief, period."

As a white man, Jenkerson said he realizes his appointment will likely rub some people the wrong way.

"The racial issues within the fire department have been front page," says Jenkerson.

"I think I have the ability, which comes from the trust and respect of all the members of the St. Louis Fire Department, to bring both organizations together to resolve the problems, and that is a priority."

A 28-year veteran of the department, Jenkerson was chosen in part, because he scored better on a promotions test.

Jenkerson is also involved in an ongoing criminal investigation about using department equipment to work on a private residence during city time.

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