Columbia fire chief rehired weeks after retiring

Chief Aubrey Jenkins
Chief Aubrey Jenkins

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins is back on the job only weeks after retiring from his position.

City officials say they interviewed four other candidates, including one from out-of-state, but decided to rehire the former chief at the salary he was making when he retired. His first day was Monday.

Jenkins retired on October 18 to avoid a change in the South Carolina State Retirement System. He made it clear that he planned to reapply for the open post.

According to an internal e-mail sent to fire department employees in October, Jenkins said he was going to leave his post due to changes in the state employees retirement plan that will put limits on earnings for retirees effective Jan. 3, 2012.

"It is my intention to retire prior to this implementation date, as this restriction will affect my ability to continue in my chosen profession in the future in South Carolina," Jenkins said in the e-mail.

"I believe there is much work to be done and I would very much like to be a part of that," continued Jenkins.

Mayor Steve Benjamin said he appreciated the chief's more than three decades in public service, but said if chief wanted his old job back, he would receive no preferential treatment.

"I understand he intends to reapply for his position. Under our system of government that decision rests with the city manager. The city manager will take all qualified applicants and, at the end of the day, will make a conscience decision on who the next chief of the fire department will be," said Benjamin.

Deputy Fire Chief Harry Tinsley served as interim chief until Jenkins was rehired.

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