"Nervous but excited" is how Newton Falls newest fire chief says he feels just one day after landing the job.

James Williamson was hired to lead the Newton Falls Fire Department on Tuesday. Williamson has spent over 20 years serving communities in the fire rescue and EMS industry. His first job was with the Vienna Township Fire Department in 1999. But the journey began before that. Williamson worked around firefighters when he was younger.

"I followed my brother's footsteps, Williamson said. "We were both cadets in McDonald."

Williamson went on to work a number of firefighting jobs before finding his way to Brookefield, where he has spent the last two years as captain of the township's fire and EMS division.

Now he finds himself in a new challenge as fire chief in Newton Falls. Williamson says the first challenge came from the job interview he had for the role.

"The interview process with Newton Falls was rough," Williamson said. 

The people who interviewed him thought he handled that situation well. John Nemet, who has served as a Newton Falls trustee for 18 years and on the fireboard for 12 years, said Williamson's qualifications made him stick out from other candidates.

"It really was a rigorous process," Nemet said. "We began searching for a new chief on January 1 and had 12 candidates apply. About seven were qualified, and the board ranked them. We interviewed the top four of those candidates. James was the most experienced in both fire and EMS. That made us feel comfortable because we can rely on him to help our city's older population."

Williamson received his EMT certification 23 years ago, in 1998. He said all those years of experience had brought him in close contact with the Newton Falls firefighters he will soon lead.

"I'm very eager to work alongside that staff," Williamson said. "The Newton Falls Fire Department, in general, is quite great. I know a bit of the officers. I was actually their instructor. I'm looking forward to getting my feet wet and seeing how we work together and respond as a team. We want to serve the people more than we know we can."

Williamson will take over for Deputy Chief Don Byrd, who has over 30 years of service with the Newton Falls Fire Department. Byrd has been serving as interim fire chief in the last few months.

Williamson will assume his role as Newton Falls Fire Chief on April 1.