LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2012) — The little boy who became interested in fighting fires because his walk to and from Constitution Elementary School from his home in Bluegrass-Aspendale led him past Fire Station 1 on Third Street, today was named Fire Chief by Mayor Jim Gray.
Keith Jackson, a 21-year veteran of the force, is the first African-American to serve as chief of the Lexington Division of Fire and Emergency Services.
“When I think of Keith, I think of these words: discipline, loyalty, country, community, service, friends, family,” Gray told a large crowd of firefighters, community leaders and family members, including Jackson’s grandparents, Richard and Cora Briscoe, who were celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary as they watched the presentation of the chief’s badge to their grandson.
Gray named Jackson interim chief in March 2011, one of his first steps as Mayor. Since then, Jackson has made major improvements in the Division by reducing overtime costs by 96 percent; improving morale; improving the organizational structure with daily reports and quarterly meetings with the executive and command staff; and instituting a leadership development program.
“He continues to walk the talk, leading by example … leading from the front,” Gray said, adding that Jackson can still occasionally be found supervising a fire scene in the role of District Major.
Jackson worked his way up the ladder in the Division, serving as firefighter, paramedic and, when he was a major, supervising the hazardous materials team. Jackson said he learned his strong work ethic from his family.
“My goal is for us to be recognized as one of the most disciplined and organizationally sound departments in the community and this country,” said Jackson, 47.
Jackson has also had a career in the military, following in his late father’s footsteps. He is in his 25th year in the Army Reserves. In 2006-2007 he served in northern Iraq for 18 months as an Operations Officer for a unit that conducted convoy operations near Mosul. He had 850 soldiers under his command as a Battalion Commander of the 373rd QM Battalion.
Jackson has two daughters who live in Louisville. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Kentucky.