Isler named next Rockingham fire chief

Goldsboro FD captain will be department’s first African-American leader

By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — City Manager Monty Crump announced Thursday that Harold Isler has been selected as the new chief of the Rockingham Fire Department.

Harold Isler has been named the new chief of the Rockingham Fire Department. He will take over for Chief Charles Gardner on Aug. 1.

Harold Isler has been named the new chief of the Rockingham Fire Department. He will take over for Chief Charles Gardner on Aug. 1.

Isler, 37, will take over for Chief Charles Gardner, who will retire on Aug. 21. Isler, currently a captain with the Goldsboro Fire Department, will assume his new role on Aug. 1 — allowing for nearly three weeks of overlap, Crump said. Gardner announced in March his plans to retire after 11 years as chief. He has worked for the city of Rockingham since 1983.

Crump said Isler began his firefighting career on Jan. 22, 1997 and has moved up the ranks over the past 17 years. He has served as fire captain for the past 11 years.

Isler has an associate’s degree in communications a bachelor’s in business and public administration and is expected to complete his master’s degree this August in administration. Isler has multiple certifications in fire and rescue along with 17 years of progressive experience in the fire service.

Crump selected Isler from among a pool of 50 applicants for the position. Crump confirmed that Isler will be the city’s first African-American leader of any of its public safety departments. Race, though, will not be an issue for Isler.

“I come from a very diverse background,” said Isler in a phone interview late Thursday night with The Pee Dee Post.

Isler spoke of the “brotherhood” within the firefighting community. “I’ve been a firefighter since I was 18 years old.”

Originally, Isler said, he had no idea that he was meant to be a firefighter. Before turning 18, Isler’s father was a career police officer with the city of Goldsboro in Wayne County. The city had a policy at the time that did not permit family members from being employed by the city, regardless of department.

Until that point, Isler said, his father had said he had to either get  a job or go to school.

“I didn’t understand what the value of an education was,” Isler said. “I went to school for a little while … it didn’t work out.”

Upon his father’s advice after his retirement, he joined the fire department.

“I just enjoy helping people,” Isler said. “Customer service to me is everything.”

In a news release, Crump said Rockingham is fortunate to be able to hire a fire chief with his qualifications and experience. He told The Pee Dee Post that “he’s the most qualified, by far” of any of the more than four dozen applicants.

“He comes highly recommended by his current fire chief and I am impressed with his commitment to public service and his professional dedication to the fire service in particular.”

The city of Rockingham has approximately 9,500 residents. The city of Goldsboro has slightly more than 37,000 people. Crump said Isler seemed lured to a position where he could mix a high level of fire service professionalism in a town small enough to matter.

“I have always dreamed of being a fire chief, so I could impact and improve a community,” Isler said in a news release. “When I visited Rockingham, it felt like home. I knew it was a place I wanted to finish my career.”

Both Crump and Isler noted that Gardner is leaving the department in great shape for its next leader.

Isler is married to Dr. Tesha Isler,a Wayne County Public Schools employee and an adjunct professor at the University of Mount Olive. The couple has one child, 9-year-old Destiny, and are expecting a second child later this year.



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