By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
In the summer of 1984, Randy Jackson went to the Keizer Fire District Station, located just two blocks from where he grew up on Eighth Avenue, to interview to become a volunteer.
In the 33 years since, name a task with the fire district and Jackson’s probably done it.
“Talking about myself is not my favorite thing to do,” said Jackson, who officially retired from working full time with the district on Thursday, Nov. 30. “It’s kind of hard to do that.”
Jackson, a 1979 graduate of McNary High School, started as a volunteer firefighter in July of 1984. After getting his EMT certification, Jackson was named a volunteer captain in January of 1986 and then a ladder captain the following year.
In September of 1989, Jackson left his family’s body shop and was hired as a firefighter and EMT, which meant a $1,000 a month cut in pay. He was one of only five full-time employees as the district relied on a group of 40-45 volunteers.
His body shop experience quickly paid off as he helped restore Keizer’s original fire engine.
Jackson was promoted to Division Chief in 1991, tasked with running the EMS operations. He helped create Keizer Fire’s Civil Service Commission so that the agency could hire firefighter/paramedics to start the ambulance service. KFD had previously relied on Salem or Marion County for ambulances.
When KFD built its new station in 1997, Jackson served as the project manager, sitting in on meetings between the architect and contractor.
“I could approve anything up to $25,000 without asking anybody,” Jackson said. “I was given that authority. That (not hiring an outside person) probably saved the district $250,000 there. We came in under budget. We had money left over.”
Jackson was then promoted to Deputy Chief in 2003, where his list of duties got even more expansive.
He never applied for the Chief position.
“That would mean more talking in front of a microphone and that’s not my cup of tea,” Jackson said. “I just want to make it all work.”
Making it all work included training firefighters, records management, staff scheduling, attending city planning meetings, hiring, ordering supplies, and representing KFD on the 911 dispatch committee and traffic safety commission.
He was the secretary for the EMS section of the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association for 13 years.
Jackson, who turned 56 in November, is only able to retire because the KFD Board of Directors agreed to allow him to stay on part time, where he’ll work with billing and collection vendors on the now $2 million a year ambulance service he helped bring to the district.
“The only reason that I was able to go through with it or follow through and actually pull the trigger on that was the board’s willingness to allow me to work back,” Jackson said. “It will be nice to stay involved.”
Chief Jeff Cowan added: “When you’ve got someone with that amount of time, hours and experience, you can’t just go get somebody with that. And for them to be willing to work back because of their invested interest in the organization and that motivation, it works for everybody. It’s a win-win.”
With his new-found free time, Jackson plans to finish the remodel of a Keizer home, located on five acres he and his wife Vickie bought three years ago. He’ll also spend more time out at their place on the coast and fishing.