It is evident when speaking with Willie Hatcher that he has a special connection with, and devotion to, the people in Chester. Hatcher is the first African-American to rise through the ranks to become fire chief in the city.
“At times it was challenging,” said Hatcher. “One thing I can say about the fire department is that there may be squabbling, there may be arguments and whatever, but when that bell rings, those guys really work together. They are willing and able to put their lives on the line for each other as well as for strangers. Everything else goes right out the window and we always took a disciplined team approach.”
Hatcher, who was born and raised in Alabama, moved to Chester after graduating from high school. He worked at Sun Ship and was promoted to first class burner during the four years he worked at the facility.
Married and the father of three children, he took the firefighter test in 1974 and joined the Chester Fire Department in April of that year. He rose through the ranks of lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and then chief, where he served from 1991 to 1995.
Hatcher, who received numerous awards and commendations, including recognition by the NAACP and Jeffrey Manor Civic Association, holds an associate’s degree in fire protection/engineering from Delaware Technical Community College, and dual bachelor’s degrees from Neumann University in nursing and behavioral science.
Hatcher retired after 29 years in firefighting and now works as a manager of the medical department of a private company in Virginia that contracts with correctional facilities experiencing difficulty with their medical departments.
Hatcher enjoys his work and believes all people deserve respect.
“If you treat people with respect and dignity no matter what their circumstances, things will work out,” he said.