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March 14, 2009

Contact: Dana Woodson - 757.393.8641


City of Portsmouth Announces Horton as Fire Chief

City Manager Kenneth L. Chandler announces the selection of Don J. Horton as the Fire Chief for the City of Portsmouth. Horton will begin in the Fire Chief position on April 27, 2009.

“I am pleased that Don Horton will join the City of Portsmouth as our Fire Chief. He has almost three decades of experience in fire service and fire administration and a keen focus on community engagement and service delivery to citizens. He will be a great addition to the management team and to our excellent staff of firefighters, emergency medical service paramedics, and administrative staff,” said Chandler.

The selection process included Dr. Demetria M. Lindsay, Health Director of the Portsmouth Public Health Department and Ms. Susan MacLeod, Executive Vice President/Administrator of Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center as external panel members. Horton becomes the first African-American Fire Chief appointed to succeed Beck Barfield, the first African-American Deputy Fire Chief who has served as the Interim following the retirement of Newell Whitehead.

Horton, a Richmond native, is currently the Fire Chief for the City of Pine Bluff, Arkansas and has a career of over 28 years in fire service. Prior to joining the Pine Bluff Department as Chief in 2007, Horton’s career began in 1980 as a firefighter for the City of Richmond’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

In 1987, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and to Captain in 1990, coordinating all fire service functions of his fire station, and later becoming the department’s first public information officer. During Horton’s career in firefighting and fire administration, he has been responsible for a variety of fire prevention and community outreach programs including Project Safe Place, providing Richmond’s fire stations as places where troubled youth could go to receive help. In addition, he developed the department’s first mentorship program for Richmond’s public school students.

Horton has held a variety of increasingly more responsible positions in fire administration that have given him a comprehensive background and knowledge of firefighting and fire administration. As the Fire Marshal for the City of Richmond for more than four years, Horton was responsible for enforcing the fire prevention ordinances of the City and directing fire safety policy. In addition, he also was responsible for the Department’s full compliance with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code. Of the major accomplishments of the staff of the Fire Marshal’s Office during his tenure, in 2005, the City of Richmond had no fire-related fatalities, a statistic that had not been achieved in 20 years.

During his last four years with Richmond, Horton served as the Deputy Chief and Fire Operations Chief. He directly supervised three Senior Battalion Chief Officers in the coordination of work activities for 383 fire personnel delivering services from 20 fire stations.

His professional recognitions include Junior Officer of the Year in 1992 and 1998 and Support Services Officer of the Year in 1998. In 2000 he received the Life Safety Achievement Award and was distinguished as a noted Richmond Public Schools Role Model.

While Fire Chief in Pine Bluff, the Fire Department has revised their Smoke Detector Program, conducted a Home Fire Safety Survey, offered blood pressure screenings, and implemented a Fifth Grade Fire Education Program through projects themed, “Focused on the Community”. In addition, the department has developed the Fire Placard System for Vacant Structures and started an Annual Vacant Structures Fire Symposium. These preventive measures have helped produce an almost 25 percent reduction in vacant structure fires in Pine Bluff.

Horton is committed to service to the community. “My belief is that every decision that we make, every developed strategy, and every idea should have a positive outcome measure in improving the community. As a fire professional, it is important that we reach out to businesses, associations, and other groups to assist us in our service to the community. When municipalities and the private sector collaborate, it allows both to leverage resources and assets to meet the needs of our citizens while improving our service delivery,” said Horton.

Horton received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Averett University in Danville and an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science from J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond. He is married to Shirley Horton and has a daughter, Sherri’, a son, Dion, and a grandson, Blair.

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