Although new Fire Chief Joseph Dixon will not officially start until July 2, he was in town April 17-20 getting to know the men and women of the department.

As Dixon, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, made his way through the department, he was greeted with warm southern hospitality. While getting to know the firefighters who make up the department, there were plenty of handshakes along with learning what role each team member plays.

During his visit, Dixon also met with city officials along with citizens of the community. Dixon said that he is looking forward to calling Goldsboro home.

"Since I have been here I have had plenty of sweet tea. It is just something about sweet tea in the south," Dixon said.

His visit also included searching for a home, which he said he has narrowed his list down to five. Dixon comes to Goldsboro from Howard County in Maryland, a county of 300,000 residents where he served as assistant fire chief.

Dixon brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position. He earned a bachelors degree in fire service from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in organizational leadership from Waldorf College.

One of the things that Dixon finds most rewarding in being a firefighter is the opportunity to help others.

The journey of becoming a firefighter began for Dixon 25 years ago. He said that his friend wanted to be a firefighter, so Dixon went with him and took the exam also. He said that he passed the exam, but his friend did not.

Dixon said that he is grateful for the opportunity to be the next fire chief for the city of Goldsboro.

"I look forward to starting the next chapter of my life in Goldsboro," he said.

He also said he hoped to exceed expectations.

"My vision for this department will be to have an inclusive and diverse fire department that is able to exceed the expectations of the Goldsboro community," Dixon said. "I don't just want people to see us when something bad happens."

Interim Fire Chief James Farfour, who has been with the department for 24 years, was optimistic about Dixon's arrival in Goldsboro.

"We had a good visit with Chief Dixon, and we look forward to having him lead our department," Farfour said. "We are ready for new ideas and look forward to moving into a new direction. He will be a good fit for our department."

The fire chief position became available after the retirement of former chief Gary Whaley. He retired in December after 35 years of service.

A nationwide search for a new chief began soon after. The city received 89 applications from around the country. The list of candidates was shortlisted to a dozen, and seven were invited for an interview. Out of those seven, four decided to participate in the assessment process, which included a structured interview, an exercise presentation and an interview with City Manager Scott Stevens.

Dixon is the third African-American to serve as fire chief. The other two were Bobby Greenfield, who served as chief from 1999 to 2007, and Alvin Ward, who served from 2007 to 2008. Dixon will earn an annual salary of $95,000.