When Jim Allred joined the Rock Community Fire Protection District on Dec. 23, 1982, he was a young paramedic.
And that day remains the most memorable one in a career of service that spans three decades.
A man went into cardiac arrest at a bowling alley that day. "We got him back, and he lived to walk out of the hospital," Allred said. The man later visited the firehouse and shook the hand of the young paramedic who saved his life.
Now, 30 years later, Allred serves the district in a different capacity. He was promoted to fire chief on June 1 after working previous stints as deputy chief and assistant chief.
Allred, 50, won't be on a truck every day, but the tasks before him are no less challenging than what he's accustomed to. He points to the district's $7.4 million budget as his major responsibility right now.
The district has a long-term debt of $5.4 million, and faces rising health care and fuel costs, Allred said. Meanwhile, property taxes remain flat while sales taxes have grown only modestly.
"We've cut everything we can possibly cut," Allred said. "It's a new challenge."
The district might ask taxpayers to fund a bond issue to help restructure the debt while also providing firefighters with new breathing apparatuses and firetrucks. At the earliest, voters would see the issue on the April ballot.
If the bond issue passed, the district would have more dollars to spend on operating expenses, Allred said.
Looking ahead, Allred said he expects the district to move the same way as the economy. If the economy improves, the sales tax and property tax revenues will increase too.
Allred's history with the district
Through Allred's tenure with Rock Community, he's seen the district expand from two firehouses to five. All 68 employees now report to him.
After starting in 1982, he was promoted to captain in 1991. After six years, he became the deputy chief medical officer for the district. Two years later, he moved to deputy chief training officer.
When Ken Baker retired as assistant chief last October, Allred was promoted, knowing that he was being groomed to become the next chief. Then-chief Matt Mayer was expected to retire within a few months.
Allred essentially learned two jobs during that period.
"I knew what I was getting into," he said. "It was an easy transition for me."
He learned a major lesson through his several years with the district. "Every day is going to be different," he said.
Allred, who grew up in St. Clair, earned his associate's degree in fire science technology from .
What he brings to the position
When asked about his leadership style, Allred is quick to say "customer service."
"We are paid to be a community resource," said Allred, before listing the different ways the district gets involved with the community. "We do a lot more than just put out fires."
The district offers CPR and first aid training, for example, and is involved with local schools. Allred also will be participating in a new chamber of commerce program called "Meet the Chief," where Allred will have coffee with business owners.
"We are public servants, and we're simply here to help," Allred said.