By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Low standards:Well, apparently if you're a male and you flunked the fire department's new physical agility test, you may be in danger of losing a footrace to late actor Chris Farley. In his current state. But as long as we're on the subject of just how easy it is to become a Dallas firefighter--or at least make it to the academy--let's take a look at Clyde Sherpell, a paramedic with the department with a few unusual lines on his résumé.
In 1999, five years before he became a firefighter, Sherpell was charged with assault and family violence and received one year probation. A year earlier, Sherpell was arrested for nonpayment of child support in Tarrant County. Nevertheless, Dallas Fire-Rescue felt compelled to hire him because of excellent recommendations from his past employers. And by "excellent," we mean shitty.
Turns out when Sherpell worked at the Denton office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he pulled a Mike Brown. "What I do remember is that Clyde felt the work was beneath him so he didn't do it," wrote his former supervisor. "He spent 75 percent (or more) of his time making personal phone calls and completely ignored his duties. I counseled him more than once but never corrected the problem prior to his lay-off." Needless to say the supervisor did not recommend Sherpell to Dallas Fire-Rescue.
After his eight-month stint at FEMA, Sherpell went on to work for a car dealership for less than a month before waiting tables at a Saltgrass Steakhouse until he left there with an unspecified injury. At the time he applied for a job with Dallas Fire-Rescue, Sherpell was unemployed. Why he didn't turn around and run for Dallas City Council is anyone's guess. If he had, he'd probably be a candidate for mayor right about now.
Anyhow, how exactly did a man convicted of family violence, who's slow to pay child support and fucks off at a government job get a position at your local fire department? Well, the short answer is the standards were easier back then.
"He could not get hired today with those same issues," says Lieutenant Joel Lavender, the department spokesman. Lavender says that under new Chief Ed Burns, there are more so-called "disqualifiers" or, as my ex-girlfriend called them, "deal-breakers." Lavender would not detail the disqualifiers because doing so could tempt candidates to fudge certain parts of their backgrounds, but perhaps Sherpell might not have made it past the front door. Now though, he's in a position to knock down yours.