All fire departments are rich in history and tradition.

All fire departments are rich in history and tradition.

Equipment, vehicles and firefighting techniques may have changed, but the one true essence that defines the character of any fire department is its 24/7 personnel.

Jackson Township has no shortage of talented and devoted firefighter/paramedics. So when I am asked to select an employee for an award or recognition, it is no easy task -- especially when it comes to our dedicated officers.

We take great pride at Jackson Township to ensure we hire and train the best firefighters, and promote truly outstanding individuals into our fire company officer leadership positions. One of the most valuable characteristics we seek is an ability to exemplify positive leadership among fire personnel and in our community.

Firefighters vote every year among their peers to recognize an officer of the year. One of our 18 fire company officers, 26-year firefighter Lt. Rich Flanagan, was awarded our division's 2017 Officer of the Year because he is a "doer who is a positive role model, and offers knowledgeable advice and guidance." Flanagan has worked for Jackson Township Division of Fire since 1991 and is assigned to Station 203 off London-Groveport Road.

Flanagan was nominated by a fellow firefighter who said, "He is humble, here because he truly cares, and he enjoys his job, crew and responsibilities."

In addition to Flanagan, I have selected 13-year firefighter Lt. Luke Smith for the Knights of Columbus Council 4603 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church Public Service Award because of his exceptional integrity and leadership.

Grove City Division of Police officer Brian Kitko also will receive a public-service award, so additionally our congratulations go to him.

Smith is a youth leader in his church and volunteers at the Star House, a homeless shelter on the Ohio State University campus. His efforts locally include assisting in the building of a playground in the village of Urbancrest as part of the Grove City Chamber of Commerce's Southwest Community Leadership Program. Smith also went on a medical mission trip to Haiti that included building a playground for a Haitian orphanage from which he and his wife adopted a son.

Flanagan and Smith are just two examples of Jackson Township fire personnel's commitment to community service, but for this column, I wanted to highlight two of our finest.

It is my privilege as fire chief to serve with so many dedicated fire and emergency medical service professionals. Do not hesitate to contact me at 614-875-5588 if I may be of service.

Randy Little is chief of the Jackson Township Division of Fire.