Joseph “Sonny” Emery Named Winter Haven Fire Chief at Oath of Office Ceremony
by James Coulter
As someone triple certified as a fire fighter, police officer, and EMT, Joseph “Sonny” Emery proved to be more than qualified to take up the mantle as the new Winter Haven Fire Chief.
Chief Emery was sworn in to his new title during his oath of office ceremony, hosted Thursday afternoon at Nora Mayo Hall in Winter Haven. Attending the event were representatives from the city commission and fire and police departments. Also in attendance were his family, which included his wife and fourchildren.
As previously reported on the Daily Ridge: “Chief Emery started his career in the fire services with the City of Winter Haven in September of 1998. He was promoted to Firefighter III in 2007 and moved to Fire Inspector position in 2012. Chief Emery was selected as the Interim Fire Marshal in November 2016 and was appointed the position in August of 2017. Chief Emery has served as the Officer in Charge at the Fire Department since June of 2021.”
Unique to his position, Chief Emery is triple certified as a fire fighter, police officer, and EMT. These multiple certifications, along with his extensive career history, made him the prime choice to be named as the city’s new fire chief, explained Public Safety Officer Charlie Bird.
“When he was put into his role, I gave him a set of goals and…he was motivated to do the best that he can,” Bird said. “It was not because he was asked or because he was challenged, it was because he saw something that needed to be done. That is the reason we started to talk to him and move [him] in this direction and accept the position.”
During his time at the fire station, the former Chief would give his fire fighters a candy bar on their pillow if they exhibited exceptional behavior. Emery proved to be especially exceptional in his behavior that the chief allegedly ran out of money giving him candy bard, Bird jokingly explained. “It was a testament to what Sonny was,” Bird said.
Chief Emery also went above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need. After one fire call where a family’s home was left in disrepair and without any furniture, Emery took initiative to fetch them some new furniture and help them clean their house to ensure they had a nice place to live, Bird said.
Bird mentioned how he heard only good things about Chief Emery from his peers, how he was a reliable person to depend upon for creative solutions to problems and quick answers for pertinent questions. As such, Chief Emery will be the “tip of the spear” that others can rely on as their trusted leader.
“[I am] thrilled to see you lift people up,” Bird said. “From what I can tell and hear you are a wonderful person, top of the line. Congratulations on the job and you have the support of the Commissioners. We wish you nothing but success. Remember, we know you are a person who can handle this, and you have a lot of people helping you.”
Chief Emery pontificated about how the virtue of faith has motivated him throughout his career. He owes his success to his faith in God, as well as his faith in his own firefighters. Only by placing trust in others can people make it through such trying times, especially those expected by firefighters like himself.
“Ever since I was afforded this position of fire chief, there is one word that keeps coming to my mind. It was not command, and it is not power. It is faith,” he said. “It began to occur what comes with the title of a fire chief. I have faith in my firefighters. No matter what is going on, when the tones go off, the men and women will get on the truck and answer the call of duty. I have faith in my God knowing that His guidance in every decision that I make will work. I have faith in our city officials.”