RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. ( Associated Press) — Joe Mansell has had several opportunities to leave Russellville and look for work elsewhere. Every time he has offered it to her, the response has been the same.
“This is where I started as a firefighter, and I hope this is where I’ll end up,” said Russellville’s fire chief of 20 years. “This is my home.”
Mansell, 50, began his career as a volunteer firefighter in 1990. He became a paid firefighter in 1992. Six years later he was promoted to lieutenant and then, in 2002, he was named fire chief.
It has been there ever since.
A few weeks ago, Mansell and his family attended the Southeast Fire Chiefs Association and Alabama Fire Chiefs Association Leadership Conference in Mobile.
Mansell met with various fire chiefs from across the state and the Southeast. One night during the conference, the Alabama Fire Chiefs Association held its annual awards banquet, so, of course, Mansell attended.
Numerous fire chiefs from across the state took the stage to be named Fire Chief of the Year. Mansell now knows how it feels to walk when your name is called.
“It’s a big deal to walk out and get that trophy in front of a bunch of people like them,” he said. “I walked into a great department when I took over as boss in Russellville. I just took the baton and kept going.”
Russellville Capt. Randy Seal said he has seen the department steadily grow under Mansell.
“He has done a really good job. At the time (he was promoted), we had just moved into a two-station department and had a minimum staff of four men per shift. Now we have up to six men per shift,” said Seal, who will celebrate his 25th year with the department today. “Now, we have some of the best teams to work with.
“It’s very easy to work for him,” Seal said of Mansell. “He expects you to do your job, but he’s there when you need to talk to him and he’s open to suggestions or ideas to improve the department. I see him as a brother who is in charge.”
Mansell, who said he still enjoys jumping and fighting fires with his colleagues, said he’s slowed down a bit and knows retirement isn’t far off.
“I have been fortunate to work with a group of people who live to serve and protect the people of this community every shift,” he said. “If I decide to retire soon, I couldn’t think of a better way than after being named Alabama Fire Chief of the Year.”