LA CROSSE, Wis. - There’s no doubt about it. La Crosse fire Chief Gregg Cleveland is a man who loves what he does.
"This is not a job for me. This has been my calling,” he said. “I just truly, truly love my job.”
Cleveland has been La Crosse's fire chief for 11 years, and is planning to say goodbye to the department in a few months.
"To be chief of this department was what I considered basically the pinnacle of my career,” he said. "We make decisions based on data."
Now that he's getting ready to pack up his office, he’s reflecting on the department’s accomplishments in his time there.
"Our work ethic as an organization has increased tenfold,” Cleveland said.
He’s also looking forward to the future.
"I've got a pretty strong vision,” he said.
Cleveland wants the department to have a bigger say in how new buildings are constructed in the city to improve safety.
"If we can manage risk on front end, there's probably less likelihood we'll have to have a response on the back end,” he said.
Then, Cleveland said resources could be better used on offering more to neighborhoods, such as government services typically offered at city hall. He gave the example of offering pet licenses at stations.
"We should have clerical staff on hand,” Cleveland said. “And if an individual has a minor medical emergency, they should be able to go to local fire station and seek help."
Cleveland is looking forward to the four fire stations being rebuilt and the addition of a fifth. He believes fire stations could become anchors in our neighborhoods.
"It's going to be a very exciting place at the La Crosse Fire Department in next 10 years, and it almost makes me want to start over here."
The key word: almost.
"It's not about me, it's about the community. It's about the fire department,” Cleveland said. “My job is to make things better. I think I've done that."
Cleveland said he and his wife are planning to stay in La Crosse after he retires in June.
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