Clarkston’s fire chief turned in his pager Tuesday, saying it was the only thing he wouldn’t miss after more than four decades of being alerted to emergencies in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
At a well-attended gathering at the Clarkston fire station, Steve Cooper, who spent 13 years at the helm of the Clarkston Fire Department and almost 29 years at the Lewiston Fire Department, bid farewell to a job he described as “challenging, exciting, meaningful and interesting.”
Cooper, 67, has served as the fire chief in both cities and tried to retire in 2016, but was asked to continue as Clarkston’s leader while the city mapped out the department’s future.
“I’m very happy he didn’t retire (then),” Mayor Monika Lawrence said. “He actually kept the department together and did a lot of good things for the community. … I have appreciated Chief Cooper’s dedication and hard work. He was fully committed to doing what was best for the city of Clarkston. He will be missed.”
Cooper, who resides in the Lewiston Orchards, said he plans to spend more time with his family and participate in horseback pack trips now that he’s done fighting fires and responding to medical calls. He and his wife, Anna, have two daughters and five grandchildren.
“I hope the Clarkston Fire Department continues to provide emergency services to the residents of Clarkston and visitors — at a high level,” Cooper told the Tribune. “My job has been interesting and challenging. I will miss some of those challenges and the people. I worked with really good people in both cities throughout my career.”
One of the most memorable aspects of his tenure at Clarkston was starting an ambulance service in 2010. While in Lewiston, he is proud of helping start paramedic services in the mid-1990s.
“That effort made a significant improvement in the level of service for residents of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley,” Cooper said. “There were tons of people involved and many partners that made it work.”
Pat Emerich, a retired Clarkston captain, said he remembered Cooper telling young firefighters to “be good, be fast and be kind,” which has served both departments well. In addition, the outgoing chief helped the city secure grants for equipment upgrades, oversaw improvements at the fire station and was involved with the restoration of mutual aid and automatic aid with neighboring entities.
Cooper signed off by shaking the hands of the people he’s worked with and thanking the community for the opportunity to serve. Fighting back tears, he placed the well-used pager on a table before saying goodbye.
The city has hired interim Chief Ryan Baskett of Pierce County to oversee the department for the next six months. The mayor said five people applied for the position and three were interviewed. Baskett, who will be formally introduced to the city council on Monday, will be paid $8,200 per month, with no benefits.
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