FERRIS — Tom Leverentz was sworn in as the interim Ferris Fire Chief by Mayor Michael Driggars during Monday’s regularly scheduled council meeting. Leverentz replaces former Fire Chief Tim Birdwell, who recently was named to be the fire marshal for Ellis County.

Leverentz, a veteran firefighter with 16 years’ experience, joined the Ferris Fire Department 14 months ago. Previously, he served with the Ovilla Fire Department for 15 years.

“While I was under Chief Birdwell, he taught me a lot in the 14 months I was here. He gave me a great background as to how the city functioned and the needs of the city,” Leverentz said.

Leverentz took over the lead of the combination paid and volunteer department last Monday. The department has four paid and 23 volunteers that man eight pieces of equipment. Besides leading the Ferris department, he said the department will continue to work in conjunction with local Emergency Service District (ESD) 5.

“It is important that we work and serve together to better serve the county residents as well as the city residents for fire needs,” Leverentz said.

Commenting on the level of service the department provides, last year Ferris firefighters answered more than 1,000 calls.

“And I see that need growing,” Leverentz said.

A part of his goals for improvement, Leverentz said a primary goal is to improve response time for both the city and the ESD, Leverentz said

“Safety is No. 1. Customer service is No. 2. Every citizen of the city is our customer. They deserve the best service that we can provide,” Leverentz said about his leadership style..

Leverentz has already began to make changes to meet his goals for the department. “Communication is important between the paid and volunteer staff. Before every meeting, there is a safety message given by a different member of the department,” Leverentz said.

Responding to making a decision on naming a permanent fire chief, city manager Carl Sherman said Leverentz has an inside track of the needs and functions of the department.

“He already has shown a high quality of leadership the department will need going forward,” Sheman said.

“We will grow the infrastructure and spirit of the fire department as the city continues to grow,” Leverentz said.