The Northfield Fire Department recognized the three firefighters that retired in 2012 and the “Firefighter of the Year” at its 53rd annual banquet earlier this month.
The event serves as a way to wrap up the year and acknowledge the work of its members — the Northfield Rescue Squad, Fire Relief Association board and other entities — that bolsters the department throughout the year, Fire Chief Gerry Franek said.
“We have a lot of stressful things that happen in our lives,” Franek said. “This gives us a chance to unwind as a group and get to know the spouses and significant others of our firefighters and of the people that we deal with, and thank them for supporting us and what we do.”
Firefighter of the year
Andrew Tussing, who has been with the department for nearly five years, was named the “Firefighter of the Year.”
“I’ve watched him mature from being a brand new recruit to really blossoming into quite an involved, young, energetic addition to our staff,” Franek said. “He’s been involved with many committees…and [ran] our charitable gambling. He just always seems to step up and be there when you need him. He puts his heart and soul into his job.”
The 27-year-old, who has played sports much of his life, including softball during the summers and amateur baseball, said that the recognition from the fire department is one of the best awards he has ever received.
“I kind of view being on the fire department as being on a team of some kind,” said Tussing, who works for Mechanical Systems, Inc. and is planning a fall wedding with his fiancé, Abbey Snesrud. “It’s all a big team effort in everything you do.”
Tussing said he appreciated the work the three retired firefighters — Michael Stowe, Lonny Slinger and Scott Murphy — did to train the younger recruits.
“They show us newer guys how things are done,” he said. “If it wasn’t for those guys, things just wouldn’t keep functioning the way they should ... Those guys are really essential to the success of the organization.”
After 22 years of service as an EMT and firefighter, Stowe decided to step aside and allow others to contribute.
“It was extremely rewarding,” the 47-year-old said. “It was difficult at times, because the people you are helping are people you know. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I don’t regret any part of it.”
Stowe lives in Northfield with his wife, Amy, and his children, Jake, 16, and Sarah, 14. He works as a production planner at the MOM Brands Company and part-time at the Northfield Ice Arena.
After he retired in May, he said he got a chance to help with his son’s baseball team.
Slinger, 47, worked as an EMT and firefighter for 22 years.
He said he left March 1 with some bitterness, due to the numerous administrative changes at the department in the past year or so. Those included the implementation of a new operations manual and overhauling how the department’s leaders are selected.
Slinger said the changes didn’t seem to be in the best interest of the citizens of Northfield or the firefighters.
“That added a great amount of frustration with me,” he said. “I felt it wasn’t in my best interest anymore to stay that dedicated if I didn’t have the pride in the department that I had had.”
But, he was proud to serve alongside the other firefighters.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Slinger, an estimator for an Apple Valley construction company. “I miss the camaraderie with the guys.”
Slinger, a former member of the department’s dive team, has two daughters, 12 and 15, with his wife Laura, and enjoys fishing and hunting.
Murphy, who works for the city’s water department, said that it was hard to leave in December after 27 years, but that it was the right time to retire.
“Firefighting’s for young guys,” the 57-year-old said. “I enjoyed my years of service on the fire department and rescue squad.”
He said he won awards for helping with three pre-hospital baby deliveries, taught CPR classes for more than 15 years throughout the community and was appointed to rescue squad leadership positions for several years.
When he eventually retires from his full-time job, he plans to move to his cabin in Hackensack, Minn., where he fishes with his family — his wife, Amanda, three adult children and grandchildren.
The three long-time firefighters left spaces for some new recruits, a group of which are going through the advanced stages of the hiring process.
“I’m so proud of all of these guys and we’re looking forward to hiring some new staff to fill in the voids where these guys left off,” Franek said.
Franek said he hopes to soon bring on about six new members.
Reach reporter Kaitlyn Walsh at 645-1117, and follow her on Twitter.com @NFNKaitlyn.