PALM COAST, Fla. (October 14, 2022) – In a ceremony filled with promotions, the passing of the torch, and a sense of pride in an agency’s legacy, it was more than the sterile change of command that can often take place in government.

At the Palm Coast Community Center on Friday afternoon, the room was filled with family, friends and well-wishers all out to share in what felt more like a family affair than a formal change of command, and in many ways, it was.

The fire service is like one big family. They refer to one another as ‘brother’, and in life-threatening situations, the bonds are closer than family, evident by the number of tears shed as Palm Coast’s beloved fire chief Jerry Forte signed off for the last time, handing over the responsibility of those he has served with for 32 years to the next generation of fireman, Chief Kyle Berryhill.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling of ease now that the transition’s occurred. You always want to make sure that the organization’s going to succeed and I don’t think we’ve been in a better place than we are right now,” said Forte, humbled by the turnout and show of appreciation for the fire service.

“For me, the number of people who are here to celebrate Kyle and the new direction it really puts me in a good place in my heart.”

After the change of command ceremony, filled with accolades and appreciation for Forte, he beamed proudly as he and his grandson pinned his own son Anthony into the Palm Coast Fire Department family.

“It is exciting. It is his turn and he’s ready to take over the next phase. He does 20 years, he’ll have a great career here,” he said proudly, also paying recognition to his daughter, a Battalion Chief in Daytona Beach.

Berryhill’s induction into the job was made official with the pinning by his young daughter, who during his speech, he gushed with pride over.

“I’ve been here for 17 years, and being able to lead the men and women of the Palm Coast Fire Department is the greatest honor of my life,” he said.

Ready to define his brand of leadership, Berryhill narrowed it down to two things when sharing his hopes and dreams for the future of the department.

“We continue to strive to get a little bit better every day,” he said.  “That we lead with character, that we kind of make sure our two buckets of values that work together, character and capacity – we want to be really good at the craft and do it while being really good people. So, if we can continue following that example from Jerry we’ll have a lot of success.”

The ceremony was attended by Palm Coast’s first fire chief, Mike Beadle, who recalled hiring Berryhill. It’s with a genuine sense of pride that he looks at the legacy of the department.

“I’m the third picture on the wall,” joked Beadle, a 20-year fire chief and first when the city incorporated in 1999.

“I’m thrilled. We and I say we, me and them, we started this many years ago about education, about training, about where the future was,” he said in all seriousness. “I learned a long time ago the future wasn’t with me, it was with them, they were, people like KB, the new fire chief, I pushed, yes, I call him KB. I hired him, he’s one of my kids, they’re all my kids. I knew a long, long time ago he was one of the future’s up and rising stars of the department. He’s like one of my boys, he’s one of my kids, extremely proud. I’m proud of the whole department.”

As if there were not enough memorable moments during the ceremony, a very special recognition took place as Palm Coast Firefighter-EMT Brant Gammon, diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer, was presented with his paramedic certification from Daytona State College as wife Josie stood by his side.

“Today meant the world to us and it means a lot to him because he worked really hard for this,” she said, happy they could be included in the change of command ceremony for someone her husband looked to for guidance.

“He’s one of the most amazing people we’ve ever met and he’s been a big influence on Brandt,” she said of Chief Forte. “He’s always been there when Brandt did something right, a big influence.”

Watching the promotions of several of whom he’s had the pleasure to instruct, Dr. Joe Saviak was proud to see their hard work and dedication paying off.

“As a student in my classes ten years ago, I knew that Kyle Berryhill would be a Fire Chief and I’ve always tried to give him everything I could knowing today was coming,” said Saviak.

“His integrity, intellect, professionalism, kindness, and genuine love of serving others are exemplary. He inherits an excellent culture and strong team from Chief Forte. The department enjoys a high level of community support. He will do an exceptional job serving the residents of Palm Coast and I am especially grateful to be his professor and mentor.”

“Battalion Chief Ascone and Battalion Chief Faust represent the very best in public service. They are the leaders we all would want to follow. Chief Berryhill is a stellar leader with an outstanding leadership team,” he said.

Among Saviak’s students and now in a position of leadership, Lt. Patrick Juliano worked to make the ceremony memorable in honor of the men who have been so instrumental in the lives of many.

“It’s a momentous day for us because we changed the guard. Four years ago Jerry Forte became our fire chief and today Kyle Berryhill became our chief. Jerry led us through some truly trying times. He led us through a pandemic, city reorganization, a special election, and kept it all on track,” said Juliano with admiration.

“We owe him a debt of gratitude. He’s been somebody I’ve known for 16 years so he’s always been a leader and mentor to all of us.”

The Palm Coast Fire Department was proud to announce the next wave of promotions for the growth of the organization.  The newly promoted firefighters were ceremoniously pinned by their family and friends at a ceremony held at the Transfer of Command Ceremony.  The promotions are as follows:

  • Captain Thomas Ascone to Battalion Chief
  • Captain Randy Holmes to Battalion Chief of Prevention
  • Captain James Neuenfeldt to Battalion Chief
  • Captain Andrew Woolwine to Battalion Chief
  • Lieutenant David Faust to Battalion Chief
  • Lieutenant Jennifer Fiveash to Battalion Chief of Training
  • Lieutenant Jon Kozloski to Battalion Chief
  • Driver Engineer Joseph Fajardo to Lieutenant
  • Driver Engineer Junelle Steward to Lieutenant
  • Firefighter-Paramedic Brandon Davis to Driver Engineer
  • Firefighter-Paramedic Daniel Kerr to Driver Engineer
  • Firefighter-Paramedic Sean McBride to Driver Engineer
  • Firefighter-Paramedic Christopher Strozier to Driver Engineer
  • Volunteer Intern Anthony Forte to Firefighter-Paramedic
  • Volunteer Intern Tyler Major to Firefighter-EMT
  • Volunteer Intern Bailey Sattar to Firefighter-EMT
  • Volunteer Intern Mitchell White to Firefighter-EMT