Chief Stallings to step down

Published 12:25 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The third generation of Stallings to serve as chief of the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department is handing off the reigns to a new leader.

Jason Stallings is stepping down as fire chief on Oct. 1. He is being replaced by long-time deputy chief Jerry Hackney.  

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Stallings, 45, has served as chief for 11 years and has been with the department since he was a teenager. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

His grandfather, John Sr., joined after World War II and served as chief for 12 years. Stallings’ father, Michael, better know as Mickey, served as chief for a short time and was followed by Bill Chapman. When Chapman retired, the younger Stallings took over as chief. Other Stallings family members have also served, including Stallings’ brother, Michael and uncle, Johnny Stallings Jr. Stallings’ sister, Andrea Clontz, works for Isle of Wight County as the emergency management coordinator and her husband, Robert, is a volunteer firefighter with the department. Stallings’ wife, Renee, also works for Isle of Wight County Emergency Services.

“If the fire alarm went off, I was at the back door waiting on my dad and all that,” said Stallings, adding that holiday dinners could experience a max exodus if a fire broke out in town.  

“It’s an extension of the Stallings family,” he said of the myriad family connections.

Stallings, who works full-time as a firefighter in Richmond, said the demands of being chief for the volunteer station had taken its toll.

“You’re never off duty,” said Stallings of the requirements imposed by both jobs — one paid and the other volunteer.

“Let somebody else do it for awhile … I trust Jerry. I think he will do great for the organization,” Stallings said.

Hackney has been with the fire department since 1991, albeit a break from 2001-09, and has served in a leadership role for many years.

He is a retired battalion chief from Newport News and currently sells fire and rescue apparatus.

Hackney, 53, said firefighting is in his blood.

He was inspired by firefighters on his father’s side, and especially by a former city of Hampton battalion chief, who lived across the street from Hackney when he was a boy.

“It’s all I ever wanted to do,” said Hackney, who was hired by Newport News right out of high school. While in high school, Hackney volunteered with the Wythe fire company.

Hackney went on to earn an associates degree in fire science and a bachelor’s degree in fire administration.

Hackney said he wants the department to continue to grow and be one of the most professional volunteer fire departments in the county and the region.

Hackney said about 70 percent of the membership are paid, career firefighters with other local departments, and of those, abut half started in Smithfield as volunteers before become turning it into a paid career.

Hackney said the volunteers provide a highly trained staff without the personnel costs that a paid department would incur.

“They’re getting a tremendous workforce,” said Hackney of Isle of Wight County.

Meanwhile, Stallings doesn’t plan to turn in his Smithfield firefighting gear any time soon. He and his wife, Renee, decided that serving for Smithfield wasn’t something he could just walk away from.

“When the fire alarm goes off, I want to go,” he said.  {/mprestriction}