Currituck’s first countywide fire chief plans to resign Friday, 18 months after taking the position.
Austin “Dusty” Ruscoe, a former Norfolk police officer, plans to work as a police consultant . There are no immediate plans to refill the position, said Diane Sawyer, Currituck County spokeswoman.
Ruscoe took the job in December 2004 after working as the chief of the Moyock Fire Department since 1996.
When Ruscoe accepted the position, some station chiefs were concerned he might override their authority. Ruscoe said his position would not interfere with local stations. His priorities were primarily fire prevention programs and public education.
“I don’t think their jobs will change at all,” Ruscoe said when he was hired. “They’re going to run their stations. I’m here as a resource like any other chief would be. To provide guidance when guidance is needed. To be a sounding board when a sounding board is needed.”
If there were complaints, chiefs have not expressed them often in public. Sawyer said she did not know of any.
“I applaud the long hours of dedicated service Dusty has given to the citizens of Currituck County,” the county’s manager, Dan Scanlon, said in a statement Wednesday.
During Ruscoe’s tenure, local chiefs also were concerned about losing authority when the county eliminated individual fire tax districts last year and created a 2-cent countywide fire tax.
Fire departments’ finances were assumed by the county rather than a bookkeeper at each station. Each department was required to fill out a purchase order to buy anything that costs more than $100, a sticking point for some firefighting volunteers.
The county took over fire department finances after an investigation of a former Currituck County fire chief began. It led to a charge of embezzlement over several years from the Lower Currituck Volunteer Fire Department.
The county plans to reorganize emergency agencies by adding a director to oversee fire, rescue and emergency management services.
Ruscoe’s position would fall under the new emergency director.
The changes will come in stages in the next few months, Sawyer said. While emergency medical services in Currituck were converted to a paid force in 2001, supplemented by volunteers, the county still operates with a volunteer firefighting force in six main stations. The countywide chief and the fire marshal are paid positions.