Perry Joint Fire District made sure that Chief James McDonald got a nice send-off as he headed into retirement.
McDonald’s last day as chief was June 3, and the district sponsored a luncheon in his honor and provided the chief with a ride home in a Perry fire truck.
Earlier that same day, McDonald appeared for the final time as chief at a Fire District Board meeting.
The board consists of government leaders from Perry and North Perry villages and Perry Township, which are the communities that receive fire protection and emergency medical services through the joint district.
Board members and others at the meeting commended McDonald for providing excellent leadership to the fire district since its formation 20 years ago.
“When I came on this board, I believe it was 10 years ago, it’s crazy to be sitting here now that you’re retiring — I never thought of that back then,” said Fire Board Chairman Rick Walker, who also serves on Perry Village Council. “But as a community member and a board member, and as a council member, thank you for all that you have done.”
McDonald had worked as a Perry Township firefighter for 12 years before being appointed as chief of the newly established Perry Joint Fire District in late 2002. Along with being employed by the Perry Township Fire Department, McDonald also served as chief of the Leroy Township Fire Department from 1986 until being hired to lead Perry Joint Fire District.
Overall, McDonald’s career in the firefighting profession spanned more than 40 years.
McDonald informed the Fire District Board early last year that he intended to retire in June of 2022.
To ensure a smooth transition of leadership, the chief developed a plan that called for the board to begin working promptly on naming a new chief. The candidate ultimately selected by the panel would then be assigned to work closely with McDonald for about a year, to get a clear understanding idea of how the district’s chief functions.
Three high-ranking officers from the district applied to become chief. In addition to being interviewed by the fire board, each candidate provided a plan outlining how they would lead the fire district over the next five years.
Fire Board member Robert Dawson thanked McDonald for guiding the panel through the endeavor of hiring a new chief.
“I think the timing of it was absolutely impeccable,” said Dawson, who also serves as a Perry Township trustee. “The process, if it’s not a best practice for other agencies and departments, it should be. Because it’s the way to do things.”
In June of 2021, the fire board announced it had selected Lt. Dominic Chiappone as McDonald’s successor. He officially took over as chief on the day after McDonald’s departure.
Chiappone, said at the June 3 meeting that he wanted congratulate McDonald on his well-deserved retirement.
“I’d like to thank Chief McDonald for everything he’s done for me personally and professionally,” said Chiappone, who was sworn in as chief on May 6. “He’s done so much for this community, for the firefighters, the station, the department, the county. We could sit and talk forever of everything he’s accomplished.”
North Perry Village resident Larry Reichard also attended the meeting and took the opportunity to salute McDonald.
“I’d just like to thank you, chief, for all the kind things and great things that you’ve done for the community, and the programs you’ve led us all through,” Reichard said. “I think you’ve done a great job in representing the duties of a firefighter and fire chief.”
McDonald, in response to those tributes, said it was a pleasure to serve as Perry Joint Fire District chief.
“I’ve had great support from (Perry firefighters) and of course, bringing everything to the fire board, and the board supported us, and let us advance the department to help protect the community the best we could within our means.”