Billy Kelley sworn in as Gulfport Fire Chief

Throughout a more than 20 year career, Kelley has served in every sworn position in the department.
New Gulfport Fire Chief Billy Kelley is sworn in by Mayor Billy Hewes.
New Gulfport Fire Chief Billy Kelley is sworn in by Mayor Billy Hewes.(Andres Fuentes)
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 4:38 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Always be prepared is a mantra Gulfport firefighter Billy Kelley has lived by throughout his career, but things were different when it was time for a promotion to fire chief.

“When I started in the department, I never thought that I would be standing in this position,” Kelley said. “I just tried to wake up every morning, go to work, and make myself and the department a better place.”

Kelley was welcomed with a round of applause as he swore an oath to serve as Gulfport’s fire chief. Friends, family and colleagues were at the inauguration ceremony at the Courtyard Marriott to support the longtime firefighter.

Throughout a more than 20 year career, Kelley has served in every sworn position in the department.

“I can relate to those guys who are in those positions because I’ve been there,” he said. “I learned tremendously from every step.”

And with his experience and expertise, he’s able to jump right into his new role.

“We’re going to lead the state, lead the South. We are going to make moves to be the best,” Kelley said.

With a familiar face now leading the department, it’s up to Chief Kelly to make sure the city is safe and that he has the personnel to keep it so.

“Our big thing we want to tackle right now is recruitment and retention,” he said.

Back in June, the Gulfport City Council unanimously approved a pay raise for firefighters in order to be on par and stay competitive with other coastal cities. Since then, Gulfport has seen more people willing to join.

“Even though we did just swear in 10 new firefighters, we still have room,” Kelley said.

The veteran firefighter says he is ready to grow the department, even if it means testing new ideas.

“If there is a way to do something better, we are going to do it. We are not scared of change,” he said.

Fire Chief Billy Kelley has now been sworn in by Mayor Billy Hewes as the next Fire Chief of Gulfport Fire Department.

Posted by City of Gulfport - Mayor's Office on Friday, October 1, 2021

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