"Of course I was excited and humbled by the opportunity that I have, but also a little bit leery because of a lot of the challenges that we've got in the fire service here over the next couple of years with the economic downturn," Carter said, adding his two-year term will end August 2012. "There's many changes going on as far as firefighters' certifications are concerned and compliance issues and training issues in the state. So I humbly accepted the presidency at a very challenging time."
The GSFA is the largest and oldest fire service organization in Georgia. Formed in 1952, the association is comprised of more than 5,000 members, including volunteer and paid workers with positions ranging from firefighters to chief officers.
As the president for the GSFA, Carter will lead the organization's executive board and be the voice of Georgia's fire service. In his acceptance speech on Aug. 7, he voiced that some of the top issues affecting firefighters are the economy and cutbacks in the state's training budget.
"As we're completing our training center here in Bartow County we're fortunate because now we do have a place to where we can do our live fire training. But we're in ... a minority of the state," Carter said. "The majority of the state, especially the volunteers in Georgia, have no place to go other than the Georgia Fire Academy, so this is one of the key issues.
"We want to do something to correct that because when they cut programs out at the Georgia Fire Academy and they cut out assistance as far as meals and lodging, that turns around back to a local impact to where we as a department, we can't even afford to send people to the Fire Academy anymore. So that's a huge issue that we're trying to square away."
During the next two years, Carter also hopes to build a recruitment and retention drive to assist volunteer fire departments.
"Here in Cartersville, I'm very fortunate that [we're] a 100-percent career department," he said. "But there's a lot of combination departments around us that utilize volunteers. So we want to do something to help them. For example, on our legislative initiative we have a volunteer tax incentive bill that we're trying to get passed.
"What it would mean for a volunteer firefighter in Georgia is if they volunteer and give back to their community as a volunteer, we're looking for an income tax credit of $1,000 a year. [It is] very minimal but it says a lot to a volunteer when we can say, 'Thank you.'"
After serving 21 years with the city of Rockmart's fire department, Carter joined the Cartersville Fire Department in 2004 as deputy chief of operations and was promoted to fire chief in October 2009. The Cartersville department, which features three fire stations, is comprised of 62 staff members.
"The city of Cartersville is proud of Fire Chief Carter and the fire services the Cartersville Fire Department provides," Cartersville City Manager Sam Grove said in a news release. "Despite the increasingly tight budgets, Chief Carter continually seeks ways to ensure our fire team stays up to speed on the latest training and education so the citizens of Cartersville are kept safe."
In addition to leading the GSFA, Carter also is serving as chairman of the Bartow Emergency Response Council, incident commander for the North Georgia Homeland Security Incident Management Team and is a member of the Joint Legislative Committee for the GSFA/GAFC and Northwest Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs. In 2008, he was a recipient of the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs Presidents Award.
"Being able to be elected [GSFA] president I put it back to the members of Cartersville Fire Department because we have such good firefighters and such good staff here," Carter said. "It's simply a reflection of what we have here at home and that's a huge thing to me. Because one, I could never do this without the quality of staff that we have here at Cartersville Fire Department and the support of the city administration. It could never be done."