By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Chief Michael Huntman will retire from the Jefferson Fire Protection District at the end of this month after serving more than 30 years with the department.
Huntman, who has been chief for about 19 years, said he looks back fondly on his time with the JFPD, but that he now hopes to do something “totally different.” His last day with the district is April 30.
“After 30 years, you max out your pension. That and it’s time to do something else,” Huntman said. “Let somebody else take command of the district.”
Jefferson Fire Protection District is a volunteer/paid district. It includes about 30 volunteers, four paid officers and one part-time secretary.
It is one of the largest fire districts in Jefferson County, Huntman said, covering a 220-square mile area. JFPD has fire stations in four locations — Mt. Vernon, Dix, Opdyke and Ina.
“We rely heavily on the volunteers. They’re an outstanding group of people,” Huntman said.
Huntman said he has not yet decided what sort of job he will pursue once he retires. However, he did say it will likely not be in the public safety field.
“I’ll look for something else,” Huntman said. “I want to enjoy the time off I have, though.”
Looking back on his years at JFPD, Huntman said he has seen quite a few changes.
When he started with the district, volunteers did not have to be certified. Now, though, the district mandates they be certified in firefighting, which involves completing a course that includes a practical exam and a state test.
This change has had a positive effect since now firefighters have more knowledge about building construction, fire behavior and other issues, Huntman said.
“It makes everybody a little bit safer,” Huntman said. “That’s the goal — everyone goes home at the end of the fire.”
The equipment used by the district is also different now. Early on in Huntman’s career, one of the JFPD tankers was made locally using a Department of Transportation truck, he said.
Currently, the district buys its trucks from a manufacturer. When Huntman became chief in 1995, the district bought a tanker truck for $90,000. That same vehicle today would cost around $240,000, he said.
Eloise Morris, who has been the JFPD office secretary for more than 30 years, said Huntman has been a joy to work with.
“He’s been the best boss I’ve ever had,” Morris said. “It’s been great working with him and I’m certainly going to miss him.”
Terry Jones, president of the JFPD Board of Trustees, also praised Huntman for his dedication and years of service.
“He’s been an extremely good fire chief and cooperative with the board,” Jones said. “I hope he has a good retirement.”
The Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. today at Station 1 on South 10th Street to discuss the process of replacing Huntman.
Huntman said he is pleased with his career serving the JFPD.
“All in all, it’s been a good job,” Huntman said. “I’ve raised two sons on the income. I’m happy, they’re happy.”