One To Watch: Rick Talbert

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One To Watch: Rick TalbertMan on Fire

By Lori Hutzler Eckert

South Walton Fire Chief and Administrator Rick Talbert is turning up the heat on the South Walton Fire District’s role in the community. Since joining the department last spring, Talbert has focused on creating the department’s first strategic plan, which was presented to Walton County commissioners last December.

The 30-year fire safety veteran says this year, he is “most proud of the fact that we have developed a plan for ourselves for now and the future.” Talbert also has overseen the completion of the Inlet Beach station refurbishment and the expansion of the headquarters facility for the department, which includes five fire-rescue stations, one communications/911 center and a beach safety/lifeguard division.

As for his future efforts, Talbert says the fire district will play a more active role in education, including working with the public school system to promote beach water safety and the seasonal lifeguard program in an effort to encourage what he calls “homegrown talent.”

While developing the fire district, which operates on a $12-million budget, Talbert remains focused on his biggest challenge: keeping pace with the area’s growth.

“We are trying to anticipate where we need to have higher protection, or protection period,” he said. “We are trying to keep our eyes and ears open to provide prompt, competent care and response in your time of need. That’s our mission.”