GEORGETOWN — The Georgetown Township Fire Protection District has hired a new chief, following the resignation of the former chief in mid-January.
At a meeting Monday, the district board voted to approve the contract for Oral “Bill” Banta to lead the department, following a unanimous decision by the board to select him as the new chief.
“We were excited about the overall quality and depth of experience our large group of applicants possessed,” board chairman Michael Moody said, according to a news release. “Chief Banta has the perfect blend of experience and demonstrated leadership needed to lead our fire department, especially during these difficult times.”
According to his five-year contract, Banta will earn $80,000 through Dec. 31, his salary raising to $82,400 in 2021, $84,872 in 2022, $87,420 in 2023, $90,043 in 2024 and $92,474 in 2025.
Banta has more than 30 years of experience in the fire service, having served 20 of those with Louisville Fire & Rescue before retiring as a district chief. For the past 10 years, Banta has provided emergency response training to local departments. In 2012, he helped the Jeffersonville Fire Department start its hazardous materials response team and has served as the department’s training coordinator since 2015.
Banta also holds an applied science degree in fire service and a bachelors degree in fire administration. He is also a licensed paramedic and has served as a volunteer with the Scottsburg Fire Department for the past 10 years.
Moody said in an interview that his long-held focus on training and his decision to volunteer for one department even while holding rank at another department weighed heavily in the board making its decision.
“Watching somebody that’s a professional in a paid position also offering their free time as a volunteer tends to speak quite a bit of their character and their commitment to serving the community,” Moody said in an interview.
He also said he wants to work with the department members to make sure Georgetown is their final destination. The department currently has 13 full-time employees, 11 part-time and 10 volunteers.
“What appealed to me about applying to Georgetown is they are a department that obviously has good people because they stay, they work hard and I want to be a part of what they have here and expand to the next level,” Banta said.
The new chief’s hire comes two months after previous chief Richard Bader Jr. was asked to resign by the district board. The request came after 17 department members delivered a letter of “no confidence” in the former chief, who had been hired in 2009.
Among the firefighters’ complaints had been that Bader had created a “hostile work environment for years that produces poor morale, lack of trust and a staff that is not empowered or valued by management,” according to the letter, and that Bader had engaged in mental and physical intimidation and physical violence.
Banta said he will be proactive in uniting the department following the discord with the previous administration.
“I think what’s going to help that is the plans we put in place like giving a clear route to a career in this department,” he said. “Meaning that a firefighter that joins today will have access to promotion, that he can establish a career here.
“I think that establishing am open line of communication with the rank and file and sharing that mutual respect between the two entities is going to be the big part. If there is a morale problem, I think that will assist in changing that immensely.”
Banter is married with three children and five grandchildren.