Fairfax County, VA appoints first Black, a Liberian born, Fire Chief John Butler

By: Flomo Yarkpawolo

The Fairfax County, Virginia Board of Supervisors has appointed John S. Butler as the county's first black and new Fire and Rescue Department chief effective September 1st. Chief John Butler has a challenging task ahead of him. Butler was chosen to help fix the department's past problems of bullying and harassment. He will receive an annual salary of $201,878.77

Butler, a retired Marine and former fire chief in Howard County, was sworn in on Tuesday, September 4th. He has been with the Howard County, Md. Department of Fire and Rescue Services since 1993 and was appointed chief in 2014. He began as a firefighter-paramedic in Howard County, rising through the ranks to serve in a variety of roles with that department, including as battalion chief, emergency medical services chief and administrative chief. In addition to his firefighting experience, Butler served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 21 years, including two combat tours.


Before a large crowd, Butler spoke about his childhood in Liberia:


"I'm an immigrant. I'm a naturalized United States citizen. I was 12-years-old when there was coup and my dad instructed me and my brothers to defend our home with weapons. Dad said, anything that comes down the road that doesn't look friendly, is unfriendly, is bad. And we'll have to take action."

Butler also added that after they fled from Liberia to America, that grit would carry him through a 21-year career in the Marines, and then with the Howard County Fire and Rescue Department.

Butler holds a Master of Science in management from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Baltimore. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and holds a certificate from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Leadership in Crisis Program. He is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Human Relations Committee and Maryland’s Emergency Medical Services Board and is a 2014 recipient of Johns Hopkins University’s Global Achievement Award for his humanitarian work in Africa.



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