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For new fire chief, an official promotion

To those who work for Tampa Fire Rescue, Dennis Jones has been "Chief" since October.

But Jones' promotion doesn't become official until this morning, when the City Council is expected to confirm his appointment to the $120,000-a-year position.

Jones has led Fire Rescue on an interim basis since Mayor Pam Iorio forced former chief Aria Green to resign after less than 1{ years on the job. Iorio made it clear as soon as she ousted Green that Jones was her choice to fill the spot.

Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill Wade said Jones' confirmation would have come sooner, but the city's charter requires that the fire chief (like the police chief) live in the city. So Jones has been househunting with his wife in the months since Iorio picked him to lead Fire Rescue.

Last week, Jones and his family moved from their home in Lutz to a townhouse north of Interstate 75 in New Tampa.

That's apparently the place to live if you're a leader of the city of Tampa's public safety departments. Police Chief Steve Hogue and his wife bought a 3,651-square-foot house in Tampa Palms in November. Hogue's predecessor Bennie Holder lives in a $460,000 house built in Tampa Palms in 2003, the year he retired.

Asked how he likes New Tampa so far, Jones paused for a second and said, "It's interesting. We're adjusting."

POLICY'S WEB PLAY: Tampa Bay area law enforcement made quite an impression this week on Fark.com, a Web site and Internet message board dedicated to irreverent, sarcastic dissection of current events and recent news stories.

Next to the word "Obvious," Fark featured a link to this week's Times article about local law enforcement agencies' tendency not to issue citations to officers involved in accidents while on duty. Instead of getting state citations, most local agencies handle the matter internally, sometimes suspending officers or fining them. Only recently did the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office change its policy so that crash investigators have the option of citing fellow deputies.

A few people weighed in on one quote by the new Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman, Debbie Carter. Carter was repeating what one deputy told her when asked why she didn't ticket a fellow deputy who ran through a stop sign and hit a civilian's car, sending a man to the hospital.

Carter said: "You don't cite people to punish them. You cite them to teach them something. In this case, the deputy (who ran the stop sign) knew what she did was wrong."

One Fark user commented that this spokeswoman "was immediately hired by the Bush administration and put to work in the White House."

Another Fark-ee posted this message: "How the hell could someone even keep a straight face saying that?"

DEPUTIES' NEW FACE: Ribbing and citation policies aside, the week has been a landmark one for Carter's career. She has been working in the public information office of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for 19 years, first as a secretary to then-sheriff's spokesman Jack Espinosa and then as an assistant to the public information officer.

But until Sheriff David Gee promoted her this week, Carter was never the top PIO _ even though she often trained other law enforcement PIOs around the Tampa Bay area and the state.

After all those years of being No. 2, Carter is in now charge.

Carter, 47, replaces former spokesman Rod Reder, who last week was promoted from the rank of lieutenant to captain. Reder is now deputy district commander of the northwest Hillsborough area that includes Westchase and Citrus Park.

Espinosa said Carter, though never a law enforcement officer, is "the best person I've ever had work for me. Ever."

"She is bright, fast on the draw, and she always picked up immediately on things," Espinosa, now retired, said this week. "She belongs there."

Carter said she's happy to be the agency's representative.

"People think I'm crazy, but I am very people-oriented, and I like a job that's not mundane," she said. "You come in every day and really don't know what your day is going to be like."

Contact Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler at (813) 226-3373 or svansicklersptimes.com, or Christopher Goffard at (813) 226-3337 or cgoffardsptimes.com.

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