By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer firefighter Matt Dryden pinches himself all the time.
“I always wanted to work at Keizer Fire District,” Dryden said. “I’m ecstatic to be here. I was tripping over myself to get my application in. It is truly a huge gift to me, just to work here.”
That enthusiasm is just one reason Dryden was voted both Keizer Fire’s 2016 Rookie and Employee of the Year by the district’s captains and chief officers.
“Matt is always very happy and cheerful and smiling,” KFD Public Education Specialist Anne-Marie Storms said.
Dryden also has a strong work ethic.
“You ask him to do something, he’s going to see it to the very end,” Captain Aaron Pittis said. “You never have to worry about any issues whatsoever. Say it once and it’s done.”
Dryden, who grew up on a farm between Monitor and Woodburn, moved to Keizer in 2001. He started at KFD as a volunteer in 2005 as a way to meet people and get involved in the community.
“I had no envision of making it a career,” Dryden said. “I caught the bug and after a year or so thought I would really like to make this a career. It’s a great way to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Dryden remained a volunteer firefighter for five years and began taking classes at Chemeketa Community College, where he earned his associate’s degree.
Dryden was then hired as a career firefighter and maintenance officer at Stayton Fire District. After five years, a paid position at KFD opened in December, 2015.
Coming back to Keizer was an easy decision.
“I always loved it here,” Dryden said. “It’s where my kids go to school. It’s central for me, great people, great department.”
Dryden was surprised to win even Rookie of the Year, much less Employee of the Year.
“I was pretty shocked,” he said. “I was very humbled to receive it. I just come to work and do my job and work hard and I always have and I always will. And I love coming to work and I love helping people out. I just do my job and there’s 32 paid guys here and we’re all doing the same work and we’re all doing our jobs above the level.”
Other honorees at KFD’s annual banquet were: Mike Jensen was named EMT of the Year, Victor Hess was voted Volunteer Firefighter of the Year and Jared Caruth responded to the most alarms.
Four service awards were given: Amber Butler (20 years), Greg Biben (15 years) and Jeff Gallinger (10 years). Greg Rands was honored for serving on the KFD Budget Committee from 2004-16.