Friday, September 22, 2000

New Franklin fire chief assesses goals




By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        FRANKLIN — While some of Jonathan Westendorf's relatives pursued careers as police officers, his attention was fixed on the fire service.

        Starting as a teen-age fire Explorer, he worked for his hometown Blue Ash department and has been with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department since 1994.

[photo] Jonathan Westendorf, Franklin's new fire chief, has worked for the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department since 1994.
(Dick Swaim photo)
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        He has also been active with Task Force One, a specialized Hamilton County rescue team.

        This week he started as Franklin's fire chief, replacing Hugh Depew, who retired in January. At 27, Chief Westendorf is one of the youngest chiefs in Warren County and may be the youngest in the city's history.

        “I've always been very career- and goal-oriented,” said the chief, in his second day on the job. “I've been put into positions of authority and leadership, and been able to do very well in that.”

        He will make $46,000 a year.

        Eleven people, including two of Franklin's full-time firefighters, applied for the job. The city's civil service commission narrowed the field to five, and City Manager James Lukas selected Chief Westendorf.

        The chief takes over a department that uses five full-time firefighters to staff its single firehouse 24 hours a day. The on-duty personnel are supplemented by about 23 on-call volunteers, who are paid when they work.

        City Council is discussing hiring more full-time firefighters, and is considering expanding the fire station.

        Chief Westendorf said his first task will be to determine his department's strengths and weaknesses. He also wants to make sure the department is ready to handle several new commercial developments.

        The department has several things going for it, the chief said, including updated equipment, city officials' commitment and, particularly, firefighters who are interested in the department and want to make it better.

        “They are a group of people who care about each other. There are people here who want to be here,” Chief Westendorf said. “If people want to do a good job from the start, that's half the battle.”

        Chief Westendorf said his background as a lieutenant and training officer with Loveland-Symmes have helped prepare him to be a chief.

        “There are a lot of big things going on in this city,” the chief said. ”It's an excellent opportunity.”
       



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