Walker Valley Fire Chief Randy Camp talks to reporters at Happy Valley Farm in Rossville, Ga, in 2013.

Walker County, Ga., Emergency Services Director Randy Camp is jumping ship.

Camp will become Catoosa County's fire chief at the beginning of next year, replacing Chuck Nichols, who is retiring. The switch means Walker County Commissioner-elect Shannon Whitfield will have to make his first important hire as soon as he takes office Jan. 1.

Whitfield said he plans to meet with all current Walker County department heads, including Camp, next week. Whitfield isn't sure why Camp is leaving, though he heard from leaders of other North Georgia local governments that Camp has been looking to leave Walker County since the beginning of the year.

For example, Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray told the Times Free Press that Camp applied to be the new city manager when Ron Goulart left Aug. 1. Camp did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

"It wasn't a shock to me that he took another opportunity," Whitfield said Monday. "I wish him well on his new venture."

Whitfield hopes to line up a replacement for Camp by the time he takes office Jan. 1. If he does, he will have moved much faster than Catoosa County did.

County Manager Jim Walker said he needed about two months to hire Nichols' replacement. He posted the job opening Sept. 7 and forwarded a stack of résumés to some other fire chiefs in Georgia in the beginning of October. Those chiefs, whom the county paid to advise Walker, whittled the résumés down to seven semifinalists.

After two rounds of interviews, Walker offered the job to Camp.

He said the commissioners like that Camp was used to this area — its roads, mountains and wildfires. Camp, who has worked in Walker County for 15 years, also already knows the community leaders.

"Everybody here sort of knows everybody," Walker said. "You have some growing pains as an outsider that I don't think you have as a local."

Walker said he is still negotiating a salary with Camp. Nichols made about $72,000 per year, but the commissioners agreed while creating this fiscal year's budget that they needed to set aside extra money to lure a replacement. Camp made $83,200 with Walker County, and the Catoosa County manager expects his new salary to be about the same.

Walker said he plans to reach out to Whitfield with advice about a potential replacement for Camp.

"I've definitely got a list of qualified people," Walker said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.