By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — — For 30 years, Mike Huntman has worn the badge of Jefferson Fire Protection District — first as a firefighter then as its chief.
"I start my 31st year of service today," Huntman said. "I was hired on April Fool's Day. I kept expecting someone to come to me and say, 'April Fools, you're not really hired.' They never did."
Things in fire service, and at JFPD have changed over the years.
"I started as a firefighter, a probationary firefighter, then I went on shift and at that time, you ran the shift by yourself," Huntman recalled. "Brian Beatty and Rodney Sweetin were hired right after that and they stayed with me down here a lot."
Down here is at Jefferson Fire Protection District Station 1, located on South 10th Street. During Huntman's time with the district, the station also saw some changes.
"I was here for the remodeling," Huntman recalled. "It used to be, you came int he door and it was a big room. Back where the bunk room is now is where the office was at, and the storage area was where the bunk room is now."
Changes in the structure of the station aside, Huntman said there have been other changes in fire service.
"There is a lot more training required now than there was 30 years ago," Huntman said. "I was one of the first firefighters to go to the Fire Academy in Champaign."
Huntman became chief at JFPD in May, 1995. Another 30-plus year veteran of the district, office secretary Eloise Morris, said she is proud to have Huntman as the chief.
"I was here before he was, but I can truly say he is the best boss anyone could ever have," Morris said. "He is very kind and caring."
Huntman said he has tried to live his life and his work-life with the Golden Rule in mind.
"The Bible says to treat people like you want to be treated," Huntman said. "I've always had that philosophy. It doesn't always work out, but that's what you try to do."
Huntman said for 30 years, he has done the job "for itself."
"I like helping people," Huntman said. "Now, after 30 years, I'm thinking this is probably my last year. I'm going to consider (retiring). I'm looking for something to do besides being the fire chief."
Jefferson Fire Protection District is a volunteer/paid district, with about 30 volunteers and four paid officers.