Franklin Fire Chief Jonathan Westendorf, left, takes the oath of office on July 14 as incoming president of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association from outgoing president Mark Martin, fire chief of the Perry Twp. Fire Department in Stark County. CONTRIBUTED

Franklin fire chief to lead state association as it faces new challenges

Franklin Fire & EMS Chief Jonathan Westendorf was recently sworn in as the association’s president during its annual conference in Columbus. He was elevated to president after serving as the association’s first vice president last year.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “The thing that’s great about OFCA is that it’s a group of some of the most giving and dedicated fire chiefs in the state of Ohio who come together to make the fire service in Ohio better.”

Westendorf said the people he’s worked with are trusted friends and great leaders.

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“I’m very grateful for them to vote me into this office,” Westendorf said. “I take this very seriously.”

Westendorf, 46, has been Franklin’s fire chief since September 2000. During his tenure the Division of Fire has grown and now includes EMS service.

He said becoming OFCA president became a goal for him after attending his first conference as he was walking through with his wife Betsy and two daughters, Cayden and Kyndal.

“I saw these people as caring for one another and I saw people coming to them for advice and guidance,” Westendorf said. “It was very noticeable and I wanted to be one of these people. They’re still active and they guided me into this position. To be accepted by your mentors, that’s pretty special.”

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Westendorf said he and his committee have been working for the past six months for the upcoming year’s agenda which is to help strengthen Ohio’s fire service.

He said the OFCA and the state fire service are going through a period of change as they address issues such as active shooters, the opioid crisis, methamphetamines, staffing, recruitment, retention and pensions.

“It’s been an adventure,” he said. “We’ve grown this service and I think the community is safer overall. Our response times are lower and our HOPE program has a caring and compassionate team that’s saving and changing a lot of lives. We’ve got a lot of things to do and it’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely been rewarding.”

Franklin City Council members praised Westendorf’s accomplishment and his service to the city at its July 15 meeting. Mayor Todd Hall noted that Westendorf “always had his eyes on specific goals” as he commended him for his service as fire chief as well as his efforts behind success of the events sponsored by city’s special events committee.

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