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Columbus Mayor Names Jeffrey Happ As New Fire Chief

Jeffrey Happ was named as the new chief of Columbus Division of Fire.
Columbus Division of Fire
Jeffrey Happ was named as the new chief of Columbus Division of Fire.

Jeffrey Happ, former interim chief of the Columbus Division of Fire, is now its permanent head.

Mayor Andrew Ginther said Tuesday that he hired Happ because he helped make the 1,600-person department more diverse and inclusive during his time as interim chief.

“He has shown again and again throughout his career, he was asked by then-Fire Chief Ned Pettus to help turn around the arson team, who was, there was rampant racial strife and mistrust,” Ginther says. “More recently, when I charged the director with doubling the number of firefighters of color and women over the next 10 years, that assignment came to Jeff Happ.”

Happ says he looks forward to officially leading the department.

“It’s an honor of a lifetime to lead this great division of proud, professional paramedics and firefighters," Happ said. "I accept and understand the charge you have given me.”

Ginther appointed Happ as interim chief May 28, 2020, after asking then-chief Kevin O’Connor to resign earlier in the month. Investigators said that Jeff Reall, a deputy chief working under O'Connor, falsified payrollleading to overpayments of about $440,000.

O'Connor denied any involvement in the overpayments. A city investigation recommended Reall be terminated and O’Connor be suspended 96 hours without pay for failing to adequately supervise division personnel.

Happ has been with the fire department for 28 years. He became a lieutenant in 1998, and he was promoted to captain in 2003. He became assistant chief in 2018 after serving as batallion chief on the South Sideand fire and explosives investigative unit commander.

Happ was also instrumental in organizing the division’s first Fire Cadet Class, which allows part-time civilian students to learn about firefighting.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.