Clayton County Fire Chief Recognized as Outstanding Professional By Columbia Southern University


A strong drive for excellence and stellar career in the fire service are perhaps the best reasons Columbia Southern University (CSU) recently awarded its Outstanding Fire Service Professional Award to Landry Merkison, fire chief of Clayton County Fire & Emergency Services in Georgia.
The award was established as part of National Fire Prevention Month and to recognize CSU fire service students and graduates for their commitment to safety, professionalism and their accomplishments in the industry. Many students submitted nominations and CSU faculty selected a winner based on the above criteria.
“I have always possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a drive to be the best officer I can be,” said Merkison, who is seeking an MBA with a concentration in public administration at CSU.
“As a child, I would follow behind my father as he worked as a mechanic into the early morning hours,” he said. “He never tired of me asking one question after the next and taught me at a very young age that I should never rely on others to do what I can learn to do myself.”
“He also taught me that I had a responsibility to pass that knowledge on to others. It was the lessons learned from those nights in my father’s garage that gave me drive and passion to become a public servant and is also what led me back to school to pursue my bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” said Merkison.
The fire chief, a native Georgian, credits his education with CSU as honing his drive for excellence.
“The topics and discussion with my peers throughout the program have broadened my knowledge in all areas of public administration,” said Merkison. “After 25 years in public safety and government operations, it has been a breath of fresh air to address old problems with fresh ideas and perspectives.”
Those fresh ideas are another reason Merkison was praised for his accomplishments and “vision for what could be in fire/EMS, rather than for just what has been," according to one nomination letter.
The letter commended Merkison’s efforts with the Community Treatment Unit as groundbreaking. The Community Treatment Unit consists of three units staffed by nurse practitioner/paramedic partners who can respond to any 911 incident, but cater to those when there is a less than life-threatening need.
Merkison’s journey into firefighting began as a volunteer with the Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department in 1992. The following year, he was hired by the City of Riverdale, Georgia, and landed a job at his current home with Clayton County Fire & Emergency Services three years later. He steadily rose in ranks within the Fire Marshal’s Office and was promoted to battalion chief in 2008. 
From 2010 through 2013, Merkison served as a member of the fire chief’s executive staff as the assistant fire chief and deputy director of emergency management and homeland security. In November 2013, he was appointed as the sixth fire chief of Clayton County Fire & Emergency Services and as the director of emergency management.
Additional accomplishments include:

  • Region Three EMS Director and EMS Agency of the Year (2016, 2017)
  • Ronnie Thames Foundation Leadership Award (2017)
  • Commission on Fire Accreditation International Accredited Agency (2017)

Merkison earned his bachelor’s in fire science from Columbia Southern University in 2015.
About Columbia Southern University
One of the nation’s pioneer online universities, Columbia Southern University was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.