Deputy Town Manager Lee Barbee has been named a recipient of the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Life Membership.
Barbee was recognized by the Clayton Town Council for his distinguished career, serving nearly five decades with the Clayton Fire Department.
“Today, we honor a man whose legacy is etched in the very fabric of our department’s history – a leader, mentor, and visionary who has taken the Clayton Fire Department to unprecedented levels,” said Fire Chief David Ranes, during the Town Council meeting on Feb. 5.
A graduate of Clayton High School, Barbee joined the Clayton Fire Department in 1975 and worked his way up the ranks to become fire chief in 1991. He advanced his extensive knowledge in fire service by becoming involved in an assortment of influential local, state, and federal organizations, including more than 20 years with the IAFC, and in 2018, his efforts came full circle upon receiving the prestigious title of North Carolina Fire Chief of the Year.
“This is a wonderful surprise,” said Barbee. “I don’t look for recognition. I’m just doing my job and trying to be a team player. As I grew into fire service, I was always looking outside our department for additional resources, and I felt like participating in the IAFC added value – not just to myself but my entire team.”
After 48 years with the Clayton Fire Department, 32 of which were under his leadership as fire chief, Barbee transitioned into a new role as Interim Deputy Town Manager in 2021 and then Deputy Town Manager in 2023.
“As an innovative leader, he has consistently set an example for his colleagues, inspiring them to reach new heights in their profession,” said Ranes. “His leadership has not only elevated the Clayton Fire Department but has set a standard of excellence that resonates throughout the firefighting community. May his influence continue to inspire generations of firefighters and leaders to come.”
Marking a commitment to merit and professional development, the IAFC’s Life Membership signifies an adherence to staying informed, connected, and prepared to meet the challenges of a dynamic and ever-evolving fire and emergency services landscape. The organization continues to be an outlet for leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety policy since 1873.
Photo 1: Clayton Deputy Town Manager Lee Barbee receives International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Life Membership. On the back row (from left) are Fire Chief David Ranes; Donna Barbee (wife); Deputy Town Manager Lee Barber is holding Sutherlyn (granddaughter); Tyler Barbee (son) is holding Ansley (granddaughter); Haley Barbee; Landon Hall (grandson); Jason Hall (son), and Casey Hall. On the front row (from left) are Emerson (granddaughter) and Rylee (granddaughter).