Veteran firefighter becomes city’s first black fire chief

Twenty-year veteran David Johnson will take over for chief Kevin Bowman, who retired after being disciplined over plans for a fire-training center.

Orlando Sentinel

LEESBURG, Fla. — Twenty-year Leesburg Fire Department veteran David Johnson has been tapped to take over as fire chief for Kevin Bowman, who retired in December after being disciplined over plans for a fire-training center, the city said today.

He is the city’s first black fire chief.

Johnson, who grew up in Orlando and attended Jones High School, will lead a 57-member department that responds to more than 6,000 calls annually in the city of almost 21,000, officials said.

He studied electrical engineering at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia Southern University. For a dozen years he served as a fire program coordinator at Lake Technical Institute in Tavares.

In 1994, as a new firefighter, Johnson listed his career goals and put running his own department someday at the top of the list.

Bowman, who had been chief since January 2010, left after a controversy erupted over plans for a fire-training center. Ray Sharp, then interim city manager, halted construction of the training center and placed Bowman on a five-day unpaid administrative leave and six-month probation after learning Bowman hadn’t worked with the county on using a Lake facility in Leesburg’s Sunnyside area.

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  1. Congrats Chief. Here is to a succesful career

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