By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — After 28 years of service, Fire Chief David Kerkman is retiring from the Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department in September.
Kerkman was recognized by members of the city council on Tuesday night for nearly three decades of service to the community. Originally from Burlington, Kerkman started out as a EMT/Firefighter in 1989, and soon worked his way up from motor pump operator, to Fire Lieutenant, to Assistant and Deputy Fire Chief, to his current position now as Fire Chief, which he took over in 2011.
“The best thing I got out of my position is the meeting of different minds within the organization and within the community,” said Kerkman. “Also the ability to continue with my education as I went through the department.”
Kerkman started out with an associate’s degree and worked his way to a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Colorado State, and eventually acquired his Masters of Science in Executive Fire Leadership.
Throughout his tenure, Kerkman has endured many challenges, and not just the furthering of his education while in the department. At the end of the day, the fire chief just wanted to spend more time on saving lives and helping others in the community as oppose to the politics that came with the job.
However, it was the promise of family and the freedom to pursue more challenges that sparked an eventual retirement from the chief.
“There’s more to me than just being a fire chief,” said Kerkman. “There’s more challenges I want to meet and pursue — there are things I want to do with my life, and as the administrator it’s pretty time consuming. My kids are getting older – I have one that’s in college and one still in middle school, and I wanted to spend more time with my family. I’ve lived this part of my life and my wife has been wonderful, allowing me to go back to school, and with all of the extra meetings — it’s just time, and it’s time to give back to my family.”
Kerkman plans to stay deep in community involvement and volunteer his time as much as he can. He also wants to continue coaching the U-14 Lady Kickers youth soccer team. Throughout Kerkman’s many successes, he has remained humble, and departs with nothing but kind words towards his department.
“I want to thank all the members for working as a team,” said Kerkman. “In my 28 years it wasn’t all done by me, it was done by every member in our department.”
However, Kerkman’s passion for becoming a firefighter and helping the community shines the strongest through his words for Wisconsin Rapids residents. According to the retiring fire chief, he wouldn’t be where he’s at today without the strength and support of the community.
“They’ve always supported this fire department, and they’re the actual owners of the department,” said Kerkman. “Thank you for being such a welcoming community — I moved here 28 years ago from southeastern Wisconsin and knew absolutely nobody when I came to be a firefighter here. I consider this my hometown now, and it wouldn’t have been possible if people weren’t so welcoming.”