Fanning Springs Fire Rescue names Firefighter of the Year Fanning Springs Fire Lt. Ken Missel tries on the fire department's new blower for cleanup. Missel stands as the Firefighter of the year with Chief Ron McQueen on one side and Deputy Chief Elania Spain on the other side.
This occasion heralded the 34th year since this annual event first started in 1980. Synchronizing schedules of volunteers who work many different shifts was a key factor in the yearly festivities being slid back a couple of months further on the calendar.
Chief Ron McQueen gives a certificate of appreciation to Deputy Chief Elania Spain as he begins this part of the awards ceremony. Lt. Ken Missel watches.
And while the Suwannee River was a bit above its normal level, this year the historic river was not so flooded as to preclude a day of enjoyment for adults and children. The river offered opportunities for swimming, boating, skiing, tubing and wake-boarding. A set of horseshoes beckoned to players on the grassy grounds of the party site, and were among the many activities. Riding a jet ski was on tap as well.
Fanning Springs firefighters at the awards banquet Saturday night are Chief Ron McQueen, Deputy Chief Elania Spain, Firefighter of the Year Lt. Ken Missel, Firefighter Chris Anderson, Firefighter Brett Boyce, Firefighter Roy Spain, Firefighter Quinn Lesher, Firefighter Steven Edgell and Firefighter Mike MacKenzie. Not pictured -- Firefighter Chris Carlson and Firefighter Will May.
The annual picnic was a treat for firefighters and families again this year, too, as pleasant late summer weather was enjoyed by many. In the evening, there came a time to for recognition. “This is one of the ways we say ‘Thank you’ for their service,” Fire Chief Ron McQueen said. “They do get $12 for a call-out.” These firefighters respond at any time, even at 3 in the morning, he said. This team is dependable. “We have not missed a call in three years,” Chief McQueen said. “And that’s pretty unbelievable.” Fanning Springs Fire Rescue responded to more than 700 calls this year, he said.
Chief Ron McQueen takes hot potatoes from the grill to a serving pan.
To make the first call requires and investment of time by the volunteer. Firefighters must put in more than 300 hours of their time to reach the level they are at now, he said. This volunteer fire department responds to calls in Levy and Gilchrist counties, and has a mutual aid agreement with Dixie County to help when needed. They have learned to rely on each other, McQueen said, which is something that is vital in fire service. He would like to see more firefighters join the department.
Deputy Chief Elania Spain puts part of the seasoning on the porterhouse steaks. She is part of the team that seasoned both sides of the steaks.
“We are always looking for able-bodied people who are willing to go through the training,” he said. “Being a volunteer firefighter is not just running out there and doing the best you can. There are too many things out there that will kill you.” Toxins in smoke cause issues. McQueen used to say that he just wants to get old and be able to breathe. “I don’t say that anymore,” he continued. “I can breathe and I’m old.” As is the tradition, appreciation awards went to every firefighter. And, as usual, there were a number of humorous certificates. The highlight of the night is the naming of the Firefighter of the Year. The chief’s awards presentation process for the most part this year was for him to announce the award and then hand it to Deputy Chief Elania Spain to present the award to the recipient. Deputy Chief Spain’s husband Roy Spain, is certified as a Firefighter II. He recently passed his state Paramedic exam and his most recent accomplishment was mentioned. The couple’s daughter and son were among the children present for the banquet. Among the many guests were Chief McQueen’s wife Carol McQueen, a former mayor of Fanning Springs and the executive director of the Levy County Visitors Bureau; Fanning Springs Mayor Cheryl Nekola; City Council Chairman Paul Chase and his wife; City Councilwoman Barbara Locke and her husband; and City Councilwoman Jane Nogaki and her husband. Representatives of the Food Pantry of Gilchrist County were honored guests as well. Kathy Lea Browning, Harry Browning and their daughter Ruby were present.
Carol McQueen stands near the Suwannee River, one of the destinations for people visiting the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. She is on the Dixie County side in this photo.
Chief McQueen said the pantry was adopted as a mission that the Fire Department helps. Firefighter Mike MacKenzie’s work with the Food Pantry in Gilchrist County is where that connection began about three years ago. MacKenzie was accompanied to the awards banquet by his wife Gina. The chief said the fire department is talking about having a “boot drive” fundraiser to help the food pantry. The banquet, which preceded the awards ceremony, was held in the Helen Usher River House on the Dixie County side of the Suwannee River. The house is just upstream from the Joe H. Anderson Sr. Bridge, which crosses the river between Levy and Dixie counties. Chief McQueen is known for his excellent cooking skills and the porterhouse steaks were superb again this year. They were perfectly seasoned by the steak prep team. The old iron cooker-smoker he used was made from an LP tank by J&M Welding of Wilcox for the fire department. The heavy iron doors of the smoker gave the chief a workout again, too, as he created the best charcoal fire for cooking and observed food that was being made ready for eating there. Not only were there delicious, tender, juicy, tasty porterhouse steaks cooked in the grill, but many of the perfectly heated baked potatoes were prepared there as well. There was plenty of butter and sour cream available for the potatoes too. A salad and mixed vegetables, as well as some fruits were present for diners to enjoy too. There was a full table of desserts -- featuring cakes, pies, cookies and the like. It was desserts galore! Among the top highlights from the many desserts was homemade peach ice cream and homemade pineapple ice cream. Freshly churned, this ice cream goes beyond any store-bought versions. Many members of the firefighting team helped with the banquet, too, by bringing food, preparing food, carrying hot containers and assisting wherever needed.
Chief Ron McQueen gives Firefighter of the Year Lt. Ron Missel a card with a gift certificate as part of his win with the title.
Firefighter Will May was unable to be present for the awards because he had to be at the University of Florida Gators game that night in Gainesville. He is a former public safety director for Alachua County. May works as a consultant with the university as an independent contractor who is among the people involved with emergency management at the home games – to make sure everyone is safe. Firefighter Chris Carlson was also absent due to his shift schedule. The highest award presented during the annual event is the Fanning Springs Firefighter of the Year Award. Lt. Ken Missel earned this award, Chief McQueen said. He has been with Fanning Springs Fire Department for eight years. Missel constantly cleans the 80-foot by 60-feet. The chief said his lieutenant is very diligent in keeping the vehicle bay ship-shape.
Lt. Ken Missel (right) gives Chief Ron McQueen the card signed by all of the firefighters, which also had a gift certificate in it.
Unfortunately, the blower Missel had been using broke, and the electric-powered one the chief brought from his house left something to be desired. As a result, the department bought a new blower and Lt. Missel was presented with that to use in his efforts as he keeps the fire bay clear of dirt, dust, debris and the like. Equipment purchases for the department are often put off until near the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), to make sure the budget is not exceeded, the chief said. The blower belongs to the fire department, but Missel has “first dibs on using it,” McQueen said, so that he may perform his job of keeping the area ship-shape. Beyond the previously mentioned firefighters, others who were recognized for their annual service are Chris Anderson, Brett Boyce, Chris Carlson, Steven Edgell and Quinn Lesher. The chief gave a gag award to every firefighter, including himself. He earned the “I’ve Lost My Keys Award” as a result of his consistent misplacement of his keys. One of the many funny awards was the “Mop Bucket Award” for Boyce’s ability “to wash his car windows with a flip of his wrist.” He earned this certification by intending to throw water from the bucket onto his car, but accidently letting the bucket go at the same time. All of the firefighters signed a card, too, which they gave to the chief in honor of his service with them as the evening of presentations wrapped up.
Chiefland VFW feeds policemen, firemen and ambulance crews steak dinners VFW Post 5625 Quartermaster Wayne Carrignan welcomes guests to the annual steak dinner for first responders as VFW Post Adjutant Kary Colson looks out into the audience.
Manning the duty of grilling steaks were top steak chef Tom Sparks and Kary Colson, who served that night as cook’s helper. Many active members of VFW Post 5625 and its two auxiliaries provided plenty of support as well. Harvey Lewis of Trenton was very active as a kitchen worker that night too.
Chiefland Fire Rescue Assistant Chief A.D. Goodman, Capt. Daniel Williams, Lt. Lee Dunn and Firefighter Ty Ottinger visit with each other before the meal is served.
About 30 firefighters, officers, paramedics, EMTs, support staff and spouses were anticipated to be served. Chiefland Vice Mayor Betty Walker, who is also the new fire commissioner for the city, was at the event as well.
CPD Chief Robert Douglas, CPD Sgt. Matt Poppell and his wife, and CPD Officer Al Horne are seen in the foreground here. Fire Commissioner Betty Walker and CPD Dispatcher Candace Kline and her husband are in the background.
VFW Post 5625 Quartermaster Wayne Carrignan welcomed all of the first responders, and said the members of the post and its auxiliaries wanted to express their gratitude for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to preserve life and property in Chiefland and the unincorporated part of Levy County surrounding the municipality.
Chiefland Police Officer Melissa Watkins relaxes with her husband Chris before the meal is served.
“We just wanted to let you know that you are very important to us,” Carrignan said. “And I hope you enjoy the dinner tonight.” It’s been 13 years since terrorists attacked Washington, D.C., and New York City with three hijacked passenger jets. A fourth jet crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers overpowered hijackers. The attacks killed almost 3,000 people and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage. Many firefighters and law enforcement officers died as they went into both Twin Towers in New York to save people as the towers collapsed.
Pomeroy and Barron take oath of office; Pomeroy and Walker picked respectively as mayor and vice mayor
(from left) Teresa Barron and Teal Pomeroy take the oath of office as Levy County Judge James T. 'Tim' Browning administers it. Behind the reelected city commissioners are City Commissioner Rollin Hudson (behind Barron), Commissioner Betty Walker (in the space between Pomeroy and Browning) and City Commissioner Chris Jones (behind Browning).
Pomeroy and Barron each said "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and government of the United States and of the state of Florida; that I am duly qualified to hold office under the Constitution of the state, and that I will well and faithfully perform the duties of city commissioner for the city of Chiefland on which I am now about to enter, so help me God." As for the process to the leadership, City Commissioner, the members of that body choose their leaders from amongst themselves. City Commissioner Rollin Hudson nominated Pomeroy for mayor and Walker seconded the motion, which met with a 5-0 vote of approval. Barron nominated herself for another term as vice mayor and her motion was seconded by Hudson, but that met with a 3-2 "No" vote as City Commissioner Chris Jones, Walker and Pomeroy voted against it. It was then on a motion by Hudson, seconded by Jones, that Walker became the vice mayor by a 4-1 vote, with Barron casting the dissenting vote. On Tuesday morning, Barron explained why she voted against Walker being the vice mayor. As vice mayor, the person is responsible for being “the fire commissioner,” and serves as the liaison between the fire department and the City Commission. Barron said she has been working on the project for the Chiefland Fire Rescue Department to allow its paramedics to apply Advanced Life Support (ALS) techniques to save lives as they await the arrival of an ambulance. “I am the logical choice to finish out this ALS project,” Barron said. “I have been working on this for years. I know ALS in and out.” During the meeting on Monday night, Eddie Barron, her husband, shared with the City Commission that he knows his wife has spent hundreds, upon hundreds of hours learning what is needed to make the project succeed.
McCain, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Cedar Key Water and Sewer District, said she serves all of the electric cooperative members just as she wants to be treated – with respectful courtesy. McCain always is ready to listen to the concerns of the people she represents, she said. When a person contacts her with a question or concern, she always answers. Sometimes, she has to refer them to a person who has the answer but she always works to help people. “I just love people,” McCain said as the reason she is seeking another term. “I want to continue helping people as their trustee.” McCain and the other CFEC trustees have worked hard to keep electric rates as low as possible, she said, however sometimes there are factors that are beyond their control. The woman who is seeking to start her third term as an elected representative in co-op started her tenure with the CFEC by an appointment. “I made a promise 23 years ago to Eddie Richburg (Jan. 20, 1919-June 4, 2009),” McCain said. “He said, ‘I need a favor. If something should happen to me, would you take my place and finish out my term.’” McCain agreed to do as he asked. At the time, he mentioned that he felt she would serve the people best because she loves people and will look after the people in the district. “For almost 13 years,” McCain said, “I said, ‘Thank you Jesus’ (because he never called her on that favor). Within that last year, he called me and asked if I was ready to fulfill that promise. He said his heart was fine, but he was going blind.” Richburg gave McCain as his recommendation and there were no other people submitted. The board interviewed her and then appointed McCain. She completed his last six months of service. Then, she was elected, and re-elected twice for a total of three, three-year terms when no one ran against her. The CFEC revised its district boundaries. This time, there is another person who wants to be elected. Her name is Regina Goss. Ballots will be mailed to members of the Central Florida Electric Cooperative between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9. The ballots must be postmarked by Sept. 19 to be counted. McCain would like everyone in CFEC District 1 to vote for her. She can be reached at her home number of 352-543-5436 or on her cell phone number of 352-328-9849.
-- UPDATED -- SUN. SEPT. 14 8:17 p.m. Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties Click on ads to go to websites.