INDIANAPOLIS — A longtime member of the Indianapolis Fire Department has been tapped to lead the agency forward.
Ernest Malone, who joined IFD as a firefighter in 1986 and has served as assistant chief since 2010, on Thursday was named the successor to Chief Brian Sanford.
Malone will take over after a 30-day transition period, officials said. He also will become chief of staff of the Department of Public Safety.
Sanford has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
With Rick Hite at the helm of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Malone's appointment marks the first time that African-Americans have led the city's fire and police departments during the same mayoral administration.
"I think it shows that these are two great leaders that have risen to the tops of their fields," said Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard. "It shows that if you work hard, if you do the job well, you can rise to the tops" of these public safety agencies.
"The biggest factors for Mayor Ballard are their histories and their abilities to do the job," he said. "Their service speaks for itself."
Malone rose through the ranks, becoming a captain in March 2002, assistant chief of training later that year and assistant chief in 2010. He will take over a 1,200-employee department and an annual operating budget of about $136 million, according to IFD Capt. Rita Reith, the department's spokeswoman.
Officials planned to announce Malone's selection last week but delayed it so soon after the fatal shooting of IMPD officer Perry Renn.
Malone, who was introduced as the next chief Thursday morning at the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Local 416 union hall, 748 Massachusetts Ave., mentioned several general goals he intends to pursue.
"Wewill continue to seek opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our 911 responses while keeping our people safe," he said in a prepared statement, "and doing everything we can to steward the taxpayer dollars you provide to us."
Sanford praised Malone's selection as his successor.
"Chief Malone is an excellent administrator who is well-respected on the department," Sanford said. "He understands that the firefighters on the street are the backbone of the department, and he will provide them the support they need to be successful. I am confident he will keep the department moving forward. The future looks bright for IFD."
Malone, 51, grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Arlington High School, where he played baseball, basketball and football. He has an associate degree in fire science from Ivy Tech Community College and a master's degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan University.
He is married and has two adult sons and an adult stepson. He and his wife, Tammy, live in Pike Township and attend Eastern Star Baptist Church.
In prepared remarks, Malone said he is forward-thinking but respectful of the past.
"I am humbled. I do not have the words to adequately express how honored I am," he said.
"The Indianapolis Fire Department is a 155-year-old organization that has a very proud history and tradition. IFD will continue to display the heart to keep the tradition and the ability to safeguard our community."
Malone also offered particular praise for Sanford, who has overseen the department during a period of transformation, including merging several township departments into IFD.
"I don't know of anyone who could have more successfully traversed the changes that occurred and done it with more class and concern for the continued integrity of our department," Malone said. "I often tell people that yes, he is an excellent fire chief, but he is an even better man."
Malone will earn $117,383 a year as fire chief, Reith said.
Republished with permission from Indy Star