Barry Head had a busy weekend.
On Friday, he was named the next Forsyth County Fire Department fire chief, a position for which he’ll be sworn in for tomorrow.
And being born and raised in the county, Head heard from a lot of people after the news of his new position was made public.
“My weekend was spent answering telephone calls and returning emails,” Head said on Monday in his new office, “which is good. It’s good to hear from people you haven’t heard from in a long time.”
Head will be the county’s fourth fire chief, but he might be the most knowledgeable of the department’s history than any of his predecessors.
Head, 50, has lived in Forsyth County his entire life. He graduated from Forsyth County High School, but even before then he knew he wanted to pursue a career in public safety.
“I don’t know if there’s one event that drew me to it,” Head said, “but I certainly knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
In 1986, at 18, Head became a volunteer firefighter. Four years later, he started his public safety career in earnest as a dispatcher with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. He eventually reached the rank of sergeant, then started with the Forsyth County Fire Department in 1997 as a fire inspector.
Head went on to serve a variety of roles in the department, from firefighter to fire lieutenant to division chief, marshal and most recently division chief, field operation, a position he had held since 2017 before former Fire Chief Danny Bowman retired after 15 years.
Now, he’s in charge of the entire department that is tasked with keeping the only county that he’s called home safe.
“It’s exciting,” Head said, “and terrifying.”
Head has plenty to keep him busy. The fire department is set to replace a few fire stations, add apparatus and staff and initiate some community outreach programs, such as the Forsyth County Fire Explorer Cadet Program.
The county also recently purchased land in north Forsyth to build a state-of-the-art training facility.
“That project in and of itself will be the largest single project that we’re tackled,” Head said.
Much of it follows the roadmap set by Bowman, Head said. The longtime chief was a big figure in the community who guided the fire department along as demand for the department’s services grew alongside Forsyth County.
Head said he learned a lot from working with Bowman, particularly in situations that required creative problem-solving. That was most evident as the former chief managed the department’s ever-growing budget over the years, Head said.
“He’d have this daunting task, and to watch him work through it and find the answer to the problem was pretty impressive,” Head said.
Now, that’s Head’s task. It seems like “a hard act to follow,” he said, but Head feels he’s taking over the department at an exciting time in its evolution, thanks in big part to Bowman’s leadership.
Leading the fire department wasn’t something Head considered early on in his career, but that evolved, he said, particularly over the last four to five years.
To Head, it’s the natural next step to giving back to the place he’s always called home.
“I’ve always tried to give back to the community here as best as I could,” Head said. “And this is a continuation of that effort, and being in this role in your hometown is exciting.”