Hamilton’s fire chief set to retire after 5 years

After more than five years as Hamilton’s fire chief, Steve Dawson is retiring.

“I think the thing I’ll miss most is the personal interaction with the firefighters in the fire department,” said Dawson, a Hamilton native who graduated from Taft High School in 1973, the same year as Council Member Rob Wile, who also had his final council meeting as a member of council on Dec. 20 and during the meeting asked Dawson to sign his high school yearbook.

What is the biggest change he has seen as a firefighter?

“The obvious is the technology,” Dawson said. “The introduction of computers. Now, we’ve got iPads in front of our trucks. When I first started, we had paper-map books. Now, we have iPads with GPS to help us get from place to place, or to make alarms.”

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Even the quality of equipment and trucks has improved dramatically during the past 20 years, he said.

During Dawson’s final council meeting as chief, Mayor Pat Moeller noted he had served as chief during one of the most traumatic periods in the fire department’s history, the 2015 death in the line of duty of firefighter Patrick Wolterman, in an arson fire.

“The one thing that if I had to wish for, for my retirement, is for Patrick Wolterman to be able to shake my hand and say, ‘Happy retirement,’” he said. “That’s the one challenge. But I’m very proud of the men and women of the Hamilton Fire Department. Despite the challenges they’ve faced the past several years, they still go out every day, and give 100 percent. They provide excellent emergency service.”

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His retirement will become official in early February, but he’s using vacation time between now and then.

Wile and Dawson weren’t the only Taft Tigers Class of ‘73 to have successful careers.

“It’s kind of a standing joke around here,” Dawson said, “because the class, we were probably very apathetic when we went to school. Our class probably came in last in Homecoming parade competition.”

But yet, the class produced a four-star general Rick Lynch and two-time Super Bowl champion Dave Stalls, a defensive lineman (a champion with the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII, and Los Angeles Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII).

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