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On April 1, Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services’ second in command, Fred Cephas, became the first Black fire chief in the department’s 52-year history. 

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners approved Cephas’ appointment as fire chief March 7. Cephas began his career in Gwinnett in 2001 and has held various roles in strategic planning, accreditation management, operations and as a licensed polygraphist. He became deputy fire chief in 2020. 

Fred Cephas

“As deputy chief, he strengthened operations within the department and increased trust within the community,” said Glenn Stephens, Gwinnett County administrator. “I look forward to seeing where he leads the department in the future.”

Cephas joined the United States Air Force in 1996 and, after basic training, he was assigned to the Louis F. Garland Fire Academy, where he trained as a Department of Defense aircraft rescue firefighter before serving as a first responder at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Following his military service, Cephas joined the Winston-Salem Fire Department, a post that preceded his move to Gwinnett County Fire and EMS in 2001. 

“With his military background and over 20 years of experience in Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services, Fred brings a wealth of knowledge to his new role as chief,” Stephens said. 

As fire chief, Cephas’ priorities are continuing to work on retention and team building within the department and supporting other departments and agencies in the county government.

“I’m committed to serving others — and at its core, that’s what public service and public safety are all about,” Cephas said. “I am truly honored and humbled to continue to serve the county that I love, while understanding there is still more work to be done.”

“As a County employee, I fondly remember Chief Cephas’ work ethic and his ability to connect with colleagues and residents in our community,” said Nicole Love Hendrickson, chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. “He is truly a servant leader, and that is a trait we value when training successors for key roles in Gwinnett County.”

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