Reardon sworn in as new fire chief


The Liberty Township Fire Department (LTFD) is now under new leadership as James Reardon was sworn into the role during Monday’s meeting of the Liberty Township Board of Trustees.

Reardon takes over for outgoing Chief Tom O’Brien, who served in the role for five years before announcing his retirement.

Prior to being elevated to the position of fire chief, Reardon served as a battalion chief for LTFD and has been with the department dating back to 1991 when he began as an explorer.

“We are thrilled to be promoting our current Battalion Chief Reardon to assume this role,” Trustee Bryan Newell said. “He has already proven that he has the skills, passion, and leadership to pick up where the former chief left off. We thank him for his continuous service to Liberty Township.”

Reardon told The Gazette it’s an “honor” to work for a “fantastic” community that has shown them great support through the years.

Reardon has spent nearly all of his 31 years in fire and EMS service in Liberty Township. His initial interest in becoming a fireman and paramedic started when he joined a new student athletic trainer program at Olentangy High School, and he said he really began to enjoy “the field medical side of things” while in the program.

“I came home from school one day and told my mom I think I want to be a fireman and a paramedic, so she told me to call the fire station,” Reardon recalled. “So I called the fire station and it just so happened that that was the first-ever meeting of the explorer program at Liberty Township that night.”

The explorer program allows people to dabble in the business and learn about the training and responsibilities involved with being a fireman and paramedic. Reardon’s mother drove him to the meeting, and he joined the program and stuck with it until his graduation from Olentangy in 1993.

Following high school, he attended Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) where he earned a degree in fire administration. While preparing to graduate from EKU, Reardon began applying for positions in various places he figured it would be nice to work.

“If it had ‘beach’ in the name, I applied there,” Reardon said. “All these big cities and stuff like that. But I came back here because I hadn’t heard anything, and I got hired for about seven months part-time at Liberty, and I got into the paramedic program at Tri-Rivers (Career Center) up in Marion County. And then an opening came up in January of 1998.”

Reardon spent two years with Liberty Township before he got a call from Fairfax County in Virginia for a job that he accepted. But after getting married, he and his wife decided it was too far away from family in Delaware County and moved back in 2001.

Reardon has remained in Liberty Township since, and now as the leader of the department, he said there is an added sense of appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to lead in the community where his career began.

“People throw around giving back and giving to the community and all that kind of stuff, but I really honestly believe it. It’s a great feeling. … To give back to the community that raised me is an awesome thing,” he said.

As for what changes for him with the jump from battalion chief to fire chief, Reardon said the biggest adjustment is going from being responsible for 13 people to having responsibility for all 54 people in the department. He added there is a much greater awareness of all the aspects that come with operating a fire department that, previously, were hidden in the background of his daily responsibilities.

“The battalion chief’s role is command and control of emergencies that are within your jurisdiction,” he said. “And as a fire chief, that’s why you have battalion chiefs, to take all these calls because I’m going from one meeting to the next, whether it be with the chamber of commerce or the township’s trustees or Powell City Council.”

As he settles into the role and establishes his style of leadership, Reardon can draw from a wealth of lessons and examples that were set for him by the people he’s served under in years past.

“Luckily for me, even during my time in Fairfax County, the station I was assigned to and the captain that I had was tremendous,” he said. “Chief (John) Bernans here in Liberty Township, that’s where I got started, and he set a great example of having an executive presence.

“There are a lot of things that go on in the firehouse that is our way of dealing with the cumulative stress that we experience in our job, and at times, that’s ok. But other times, you have to be able to reel that in, and I think that’s the biggest thing I took away from Chief Bernans. We used to play games and do practical jokes with him, but at the end of the day, when he walked in with his white shirt and his gold badge, it was a business we were running. … When it’s time to go to work, it’s time to go to work, and he expected that.”

Reardon added that, most importantly, everyone in the firehouse has to remember that when they’re out in public, they’re representing the entire community.

“That’s one of the things that I hope to continue,” he went on to say. “Luckily for us, Chief Bernans laid that foundation from 1990-2009, and most of the guys that worked there have worked for him, so everyone understands that.”

Reardon said he will no longer ride the truck when calls come in, citing some knowledge he gained from “a very good police chief” in former Powell Police Chief Gary Vest.

“There are two types of chiefs; you’re either a working chief or a visual chief,” Reardon said of what he learned from Vest. “A working fire chief, occasionally you’re going to jump on the truck and do this and that. That’s not my job anymore. My job is to make sure this is a well-oiled machine and be the face of the township, so to speak.”

That’s not to say it will be easy to let go of, however. Asked if he’ll miss going on runs, Reardon said he already misses those aspects just a short time into his stint as the fire chief.

“It takes time,” he said. “I’ll get past that, I think. But it’s still fresh. The guys come back from calls and I’m like, ‘Man, I would have been on that call.’ And the weirdest part about it was when I was sitting there and they got dispatched, and when they called for Battalion 321, I started to get up from my desk and then realized that’s not me anymore.”

Liberty Township Trustee Bryan Newell swears in Fire Chief James Reardon during Monday’s Liberty Township Board of Trustees meeting. Township Trustee Bryan Newell swears in Fire Chief James Reardon during Monday’s Liberty Township Board of Trustees meeting. Courtesy photo | LTFD

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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