'Whereas...' Silver Bay's Fredrickson is Minnesota's Fire Officer of the YearSilver Bay Fire Chief John Fredrickson and two dozen members of his department were out on an important call the other night, with the Finland and Two Harbors providing mutual aid coverage. But nothing was burning.
Silver Bay Fire Chief John Fredrickson and two dozen members of his department were out on an important call the other night, with the Finland and Two Harbors providing mutual aid coverage. But nothing was burning.
Rather, the Friday call saw them headed to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center to join with firefighters from across the state to applaud Fredrickson’s receipt of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association Fire Officer of the Year award.
Joining him was his wife, Shelley, many members of his family and Silver Bay Mayor Scott Johnson, who took the stage at the DECC to read words that earlier that day had designated Oct. 19 as “John Fredrickson Day in Silver Bay.”
“Whereas, John Fredrickson has been a volunteer fire fighter for the Silver Bay Fire Department since July 6, 1979,” the mayor read,
“and, Whereas, John Fredrickson has served as Fire Chief since 1988 and has provided significant civic leadership to the City of Silver Bay and surrounding areas of Silver Bay; and
“Whereas, John Fredrickson is a superlative citizen of the City of Silver Bay and has significantly volunteered his personal time and leadership in making Silver Bay community a safe place to live;
“Whereas, John Fredrickson is being honored by the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association as the 2012 Fire Officer of the Year;
“Therefore be it resolved that the City Council of Silver Bay recognizes the selfless efforts of John Fredrickson, and proudly presents the proclamation in recognition of his outstanding achievement.”
For those counting “whereases,” four is pretty good, noted by a dearth of dry eyes at the table where his family sat.
“It’s a big deal in the family because his dad who passed on was a chief,” said Johnson. “It’s a family tradition.”
In fact, it has been only 2-1/2 years since the passing of former Chief Dick Fredrickson, who died of cancer in April 2010. The younger Fredrickson said he took over the reins about six years after his father retired from service.
Just months after the death of his father, John Fredrickson was also diagnosed with cancer.
Asked about his brother’s progress in fighting the disease, Tom Fredrickson said, “He’s much better than he was a year ago.”
John Fredrickson summed it up this way: “I’ve got my aches and pains like everyone else, but generally speaking I’m okay.”
Nominating Fredrickson for the MSFCA award was the idea of Jody Reineccius, Silver Bay’s assistant fire chief, who has been with the department for 17 years. There were also numerous letters of support accompanying the nomination. Reineccius said this was a good time to submit the chief for the honor.
“I knew he was getting close to hanging it up. He’s got some health issues, but the fire department has been his No. 1 all these years,” he said.
But, Reineccius added, it’s not just Fredrickson’s impending retirement that made him a suitable candidate for the honor. Firefighters and city officials could not say enough about Fredrickson.
“When he’s around, he’s a take-charge guy. Everybody’s glad to see him show up. He’s got a calmness and confidence that he presents that makes everyone feel that things are heading in the right direction,” said Ron Van Bergen, a 42-year veteran of Finland Fire Rescue, who said he has known Fredrickson since he started with Silver Bay Fire Department.
“When our chief told me that [Fredrickson] won the award, I thought ‘there’s probably no one who deserves it more,’” added Van Bergen.
Added Mayor Johnson: “The fire department is one of those operations of the city that I don’t have to worry about because it’s run by someone who is eminently qualified. We’re lucky to have the Fredrickson family in the community.”
Within his department, Fredrickson has also earned the respect and confidence of his firefighters. Rick Goutermont used words like “dedication,” “competence” and “knowledge” to describe him, as other Silver Bay volunteers around the table nodded. “We always feel confident when he’s on the scene,” he said.
Fredrickson recently announced his plans to retire from the department, which Reineccius said brought the meeting to a halt.
“When he said he was going to step down, there was silence for a while. I think it was kind of an emotional thing. I got up and said ‘OK, then, I quit’ — just to break the silence.”
Fredrickson hasn’t set an exact date for his retirement from the position of chief, but Mike Rowlee has been named as his replacement. Reineccius said that Fredrickson will be on hand during the transition, which is expected to take a month or two.
“I’m going to retire as chief,” said Fredrickson,” but I’m going to see what happens from there.”
Fredrickson had just three days’ notice that he would be receiving the Fire Officer of the Year Award — and no notice at all that he would be asked by the News-Chronicle to sum up the experience.
“That’s a hard question,” he said after a brief silence. “I guess I was proud that someone notices my accomplishments and appreciated them.”