Jack Rupp said he considers becoming chief of the Plain Township Fire Department the highlight of his career.

"I'm excited," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Rupp will replace Chief John Hoovler when he retires July 24.

Hoovler, 72, has worked for the township since 1994, when the department consisted mostly of volunteers and had fewer than 10 full-time firefighters, according to township administrator Ben Collins.

The department now has 38 full-time firefighters, including three battalion chiefs, three captains and three lieutenants, Collins said.

The township posted the job in March and received applications from 10 qualified candidates, according to a June 4 news release from the township.

Plain Township posted the fire chief vacancy internally and externally, Collins said.

"Ultimately, the trustees and I determined that Assistant Chief Rupp's combination of skills, experience and community knowledge would best serve the community and the Plain Township Fire Department as its next leader," Collins said. "Chief Rupp has been an integral contributor on many important departmental and community programs and has a passion to serve as the next fire chief."

Rupp's new salary as fire chief has not been determined, Collins said. The position posting listed the salary range as $100,000 to $120,000, he said.

Rupp's current salary is $109,043, and his benefits are $26,860, which includes insurance and pension contributions, Collins said. Hoovler's salary is $112,403, and his benefits are worth $27,273, he said.

Trustee Dave Olmstead said the trustees and Collins believed Rupp's tenure as assistant chief for Hoovler put him in a "unique position to continue to advance the department's strategic efforts to serve our community, especially during this challenging time."

For his part, Hoovler said, he thinks the trustees made the right decision.

Hoovler said he and Rupp worked together for 17 years, and Rupp is loyal to the fire department.

"I think it's great," Hoovler said.

Rupp, a 68-year-old Groveport resident, started working in Plain Township in 2002 as assistant chief. He had retired as a shift commander from the Madison Township Fire Department in 2000 after working there for 27 years, and he initially had planned on leaving fire service altogether, he said.

Rupp said he had planned to pursue work as a flight paramedic, something he had done since 1982 alongside his fire service career.

But he retired from MedFlight in 2002 upon applying to become assistant fire in Plain Township after hearing encouraging words about the department from others, he said.

"When you leave the fire service, it's something that you just can't always leave," Rupp said.

Rupp said he has enjoyed watching the Plain Township Fire Department grow and develop since he arrived in 2002.

The department has grown along with the community.

New Albany spokesman Scott McAfee has said the city has almost 11,000 residents, with the daytime population, including the New Albany International Business Park and the New Albany-Plain Local School District campus during the school year, being closer to 25,000.

When Rupp arrived at the fire department, the community was a village with fewer than 5,000 residents; it did not officially become a city until 2011 after surpassing the U.S. Census Bureau's population threshold of 5,000.

One of Rupp's initiatives as chief will be to create a strategic plan, he said. The last one was completed in 2011, he said, primarily by department personnel.

Rupp said this time around, he wants to work with a firm to allow it to research and meet with residents. He said he wants to set a course for three to five years into the future.

Any expansion in service would be determined by the strategic plan, Rupp said. The community still is growing, and the department might need to look at acquiring land for a potential third station -- though a second station still has not been built and the need for a third station likely would be at least a decade away.

The strategic plan would help department leaders get a feel for where growth is occurring and where a station would be needed, he said.

Hoovler previously told ThisWeek a second station likely would be in the vicinity of the New Albany Country Club, 1 Club Lane, near Harlem, Fenway or Thompson roads.

However, the township trustees have no immediate plans to build a second facility to complement the fire station at 9500 Johnstown Road, Collins said.

Plain Township contains approximately 18 square miles, including New Albany, Collins previously told ThisWeek. The department also participates in mutual aid with surrounding jurisdictions, such as the cities of Columbus and Westerville, Jefferson and Mifflin townships and the West Licking Joint Fire District.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah