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Bringing decades of experience to role, he will be the first Black Chief in County history

(Lawrenceville, Ga., March 7, 2023) – The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a recommendation by County Administrator Glenn Stephens to appoint Fred Cephas as Gwinnett County Fire Chief. Russell Knick, who has served as chief since 2018, will move into a leadership position within the County Administrator’s Office.

“As a county employee, I fondly remember Chief Cephas’ work ethic and his ability to connect with colleagues and residents in our community,” said Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson. “He is truly a servant leader, and that is a trait we value when training successors for key roles in Gwinnett County.”

“With his military background and over 20 years of experience in Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services, Fred brings a wealth of knowledge to his new role as chief,” said Stephens. “As deputy chief, he strengthened operations within the department and increased trust within the community, and I look forward to seeing where he leads the department in the future. At the same time, we are fortunate to retain Russell’s experience and leadership as he transitions into a new role.”

As a teenager, he admired the hard work and dedication of firefighters in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., and believes his life has come full circle. Cephas found his passion to serve in 1996 when he joined the United States Air Force. After basic training, he was assigned to the Louis F. Garland Fire Academy where he trained as a Department of Defense Aircraft Rescue Firefighter. This assignment led him to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as a first responder. Following his military service, the veteran firefighter served the Winston-Salem Fire Department before launching his Gwinnett County career in 2001. He then rose through the ranks of the department, serving in various capacities including strategic planning, accreditation management, operations and as a licensed polygraphist. Since 2020 he has served as second in command as deputy fire chief.

Serving in the field alongside first responders while they answered emergency calls during an arctic blast that swept the nation over the past holiday season counts as one of Cephas’ most memorable moments in Gwinnett. He cited the commitment, resilience, professionalism and courage he witnesses as the reason he is proud to lead the department.

“I’m committed to serving others – and at its core, that’s what public service and public safety are all about,” said Cephas. “I am truly honored and humbled to continue to serve the county that I love, while understanding there is still more work to be done.”

The new fire chief’s priorities are continuing to work on retention and team building within Fire and Emergency Services and supporting other departments and agencies in the county government. His promotion is effective April 1.

Cephas holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA from Shorter University. He is also a graduate of Leadership Gwinnett 2019.

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