Two years after he originally planned to retire, Interim Fire Chief Ricke Whiteside is finally hanging up his firefighter gear.
Whiteside planned to retire two years ago, but decided to stay on to see the new sub-station through to completion.
"That was a goal over 25 years ago," he said.
He actually was eligible for retirement four or five years ago.
Whiteside has worked with the city for 34 years, beginning his career with the Department of Public Safety. He hired on July 1, 1979 after he got out of the military in June. He had a wife and a child at the time.
"I came back looking for a job as quickly as I could find one to support my family," he said.
He had had some fire training while in the Navy.
"When I first hired on one of the first things they do is send you to the police academy," he said. But before he was sent there, he went through their fire fighting academy and was assigned to fire for about a month.
Then after the police academy he worked on the police side of the department, serving as range master for a couple of years because of his experience in the Navy.
When they split the department, he moved to the fire department as a captain, a position he has held until former fire chief Ken Nakaten retired earlier this year and Whiteside was appointed interim fire chief.
Whiteside has made a lot of memories at the fire department, with a major accomplishment being the new sub-station.
"It was a milestone in a career to see such a nice building built," he said.
He said they had debated whether to go north with it or west, but decided on the west side of town because of the Industrial Park.
Someday he hopes to see a sub-station to the north as well.
He also recalls several large fires over the years, including the refinery fire in 1980, Century Plastics and others.
"We are fortunate that in all those years no one was seriously hurt," he said, adding that is what they train the firefighters for.
He said firefighters have to learn to listen to the sounds of a building that is on fire and watch the colors of the smoke to know what it is saying.
"Equipment now is so much better and safer compared to when I started," he added.
Whiteside worked on a fire truck until Nakaten retired, so he went on a lot of calls.
He said it was rewarding when people he had helped came back to thank him later.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's (fire fighting) been a very good career path for me," he said. "The accomplishment has just been doing a job well done and not having anyone hurt. I work with a great group of people."
He said he has had a lot of good mentors over the years.
While with the fire department, Whiteside also joined the Navy Reserves in 1982, retiring in 2007. He said Nakaten would trade him shifts so he could fulfill his duties with the Navy Reserves.
After he retires on July 1, Whiteside has plans to do some traveling on his motorcycle.
He also will continue his involvements in the Masonic Lodge and with the Legion Riders, as well as spend more time in his wood shop.
A reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at City Hall, 220 E. First.