MT. VERNON — — For years, children and adults in the community have seen Mt. Vernon Fire Department Lt. Donny Hayes speaking about fire safety and public safety.
Friday, Hayes retired after 21 years with the MVFD. He will still be looking out for the citizens of the community — becoming a telecommunicator for the city.
"I wanted to spend the rest of my days working in a position that is not as physically demanding," Hayes said.
When Hayes first started with the department, he was a firefighter/paramedic. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2004, and took a position in the fire prevention office, spearheading public education; he also became the lead firefighter training officer and building inspection. In 2007, he also became lead paramedic on the department.
"It's bittersweet," said Assistant Chief Kevin Sargent of Hayes' retirement. "This community is a much safer place because of Donny Hayes and the time he has spent with children, parents and grandparents in educating them — not only in fire prevention and public safety, but in life."
Hayes said he will miss getting out in public and the children he has taught through programs such as Operation Lifesaver, Risk Watch and Fire Prevention Week activities.
"One thing I will miss is the kids coming up to me, like in Wal-Mart, saying, 'Hey, you were at my school,'" Hayes said.
In his years in fire service, Hayes has served under four fire chiefs and worked with numerous other firefighters.
"I will miss the guys I work with and the guys I have worked with," Hayes said.
MVFD Chief Jim Brown said he will also miss Hayes.
"In the time I've been on the department, no one I can recall has been as good of a PR person as Donny Hayes," Brown said. "We will miss him, but also he will be missed in the schools."