When Plain Township Fire Department Chief John Hoovler started his career as a firefighter in 1974, Archie Griffin was on his way to winning his first Heisman Trophy at Ohio State and New Albany's population was somewhere around 500 people.
Twenty years later, when Chief Hoovler became the chief in 1994, New Albany's population had increased to around 2,000 people and there were signs the growth would continue well into the future.
Today, with a resident population today of nearly 11,000 and a day-time population in excess of 20,000 thanks to the development of the New Albany International Business Park, it's safe to say Chief Hoovler has overseen a lot of change to the Plain Township Fire Department during his 26 years of service to our community. New Albany grew both residentially and commercially, and he helped guide the expansion of the fire department through parts of the past four decades. Last year alone, the department's 38 full-time fire fighters went on more than 2,900 fire and emergency-medical-service runs throughout New Albany, Plain Township and elsewhere as part of mutual-aid assistance for surrounding fire agencies.
In addition to being a good firefighter and leader, Chief Hoovler clearly enjoys working with children and teaching them about fire safety. It was easy to tell over the years through our Safety Town program that kids loved his storytelling. He delivered his message to them in a way they would remember, and he took time to connect with them on their level. I bet that many New Albany Safety Town graduates, some who are now in college, can recall his sage advice.
Chief Hoovler also made sure to support and participate in various holiday festivities, including the holiday-tree-lighting ceremony, in ways that I won't give away here.
This July 24, after 46 years of service, Chief Hoovler has decided to put up his firefighter hat for good.
I am grateful for his longtime service to our community, and I will miss seeing him as often, although I'm sure he will make it to town at least occasionally from his Johnstown farm. I hope he can still find time to participate in some of our community events throughout the year so he can continue to bring smiles to our children's faces.
In my years on New Albany City Council and as mayor, I have appreciated Chief Hoovler's professional guidance. His leadership with the Plain Township Fire Department is firmly planted, setting a foundation for continued success as Jack Rupp takes over as fire chief.
Sloan Spalding is mayor of New Albany.