Department hosts ceremony for retiring fire chief

by Sonja J. Keith

The Conway Fire Department hosted a special ceremony filled with tradition as well as personal tribute for retiring Fire Chief Bart Castleberry.

The ceremony was held July 8 at New Life Church.

Led by the Conway Firefighters Pipes and Drums, Conway firefighters wearing their dress uniforms filed into the church sanctuary. The Conway Fire Department Honor Guard posted the colors and assistant chief Mike Winter led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Rev. Don Chandler of Central Baptist Church provided the opening prayer.

Guest speakers included Mayor Tab Townsell, the chief’s son Tyler Castleberry, Sandy Brewer and retired firefighter Mark Ledbetter.

Castleberry began working at the fire department in 1981. In 1990, he was promoted to fire marshal and in 1993 was named fire chief.

Townsell said he has always admired Bart Castleberry, not only as a great department head but as a great friend. “Bart Castleberry has been a great chief,” the mayor said. “Thank you. It’s a career well served and we, the citizens of Conway, have been his beneficiaries.”

Brewer described Castleberry as a “do right” leader. “He does the right things for the right reasons,” he said. “His concern was and always will be for the man on the ground.”

The ceremony featured two videos. The first was a tribute to the chief’s wife, Melissa, their sons – Sam, Tyler and Zach – and their family. Afterward, the chief asked his wife to dance on stage, fulfilling a promise he made years ago. The second video highlighted Castleberry’s service to the department.

Chief Bart Castleberry dances with his wife, Melissa.

During his comments, Castleberry told firefighters that change would be coming to the department but change was good. He said if he were younger, he would do it all over again. He also announced that Brian Moix had been appointed by the mayor as the interim fire chief. Moix – a 24-year veteran of the department – has served as division chief of training. He said he has no plans to seek the chief’s position.

The department presented Castleberry with a plaque bearing a firefighter’s ax. An American flag was also presented by the honor guard.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, uniformed members of the department assembled in rows on the stage for a final inspection conducted by Castleberry that included handshakes and hugs. The final firefighter was Castleberry’s son, Tyler, who is a member of the Maumelle Fire Department. When the inspection was complete, a dispatch operator conducted the last tone for the chief.

Next week, Castleberry will begin work as the code enforcement and permits officer for the city.