Whitehall Division of Fire selects Watts as assistant chief

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Whitehall Division of Fire Chief Preston Moore said the city would benefit from the expertise and enthusiasm of the division’s new assistant fire chief.

Kevin “K.J.” Watts, 43, stepped into the assistant chief position Sept. 28, succeeding Chris Menapace, who retired.

Kevin "K.J." Watts is the new assistant chief for the Whitehall Division of Fire. He is pictured in his Lancaster Fire Department uniform.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to come to a great community to serve,” said Watts, who had worked at the Lancaster Fire Department, his first and only full-time firefighting job, since August 1999.

He was a part-time firefighter for Pleasant and Violet townships before his service at Lancaster, where he had served as an assistant fire chief for the past two years.

A graduate of the Ohio Fire Academy, Watts said, he gained “a lot of executive-level coursework” that he looks forward to putting to use in Whitehall.

Watts said he applied for the position in Whitehall in March after he learned Menapace was retiring.

The COVID-19 coronavirus slowed down the hiring process, Watts said, but he is pleased to be on board.

“I’ve met the police and the other firefighters, as well as the administration here," he said. "I look forward to serving the community.”

Watts and his wife, Maureen, have three daughters and one son between the ages of 13 and 17. They live in Grandview Heights.

Watts' annual salary is $130,083, according to the city's human-resources department.

Tracy Wentz, who works in the human-resources department, said the value of Watts' benefits is 25% of his salary, which would be about $32,500.

Moore said he is pleased to have Watts as the assistant fire chief.

"As a longtime fire chief, finding a candidate like (Watts) is a welcome occurrence," he said. "He leads by example and brings unlimited passion and enthusiasm to his role.

“Our units and community will no doubt benefit from his service here in Whitehall."

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo