Le Sueur native, business owner and longtime firefighter Jesse Wenisch was appointed Fire Chief by the Le Sueur City Council at its Nov. 12 meeting. As chief, Wenisch said he is looking forward to obtaining new equipment for the department, training new recruits and moving the department in new directions.
“It feels good,” said Wenisch. “We have a great group of guys and we’re really looking forward to working with them and bettering the community and helping out the surrounding townships and the surrounding towns and just getting better PR in the surrounding areas. We’re kind of lacking in that area.”
Wenisch is no stranger to the Le Sueur area or the Fire Department. Born in Le Sueur, Wenisch graduated from Le Sueur-Henderson High School and became a firefighter in the city soon after graduating college.
“I’ve been on 18 years and it was one of my friends who I went to high school with — his dad was on the fire department at the time,” said Wenisch. “I just saw everything he would do and I was kind of excited about it. I graduated college, bought a house here in town and he confronted me and I interviewed and got on.”
Since that time Wenisch has moved up the ranks, holding the position of Lieutenant for 10 years and captain for two years prior to becoming chief. Outside of the department, Wenisch started his own business, J.W. Cabinets, and raises his 5-year-old daughter with his wife.
Wenisch eventually set his sights on the position of fire chief. Every year, Le Sueur Fire holds a department-wide election and this year chose to elect Wenisch to chief, replacing former Fire Chief Tom Obele.
“In addition to his active training accomplishments, Jesse has been an instrumental leader for activities within the department,” the Le Sueur Fire Department wrote in a recommendation to the council. “Jesse has gained a plethora of experience by always taking an active role in the various committees throughout the year promoting the fire department through schools, the community, surrounding departments, or with retirees. He’s championed new fundraising ideas for the department and raised significant funds for procurement of equipment for the department. Jesse has a passion for the department evidenced by his commitment to its mission and vision.”
As chief, Wenisch has laid out goals to acquire new equipment for the department and bring in new firefighters.
“[In the] future looking down the road, we need to upgrade some equipment and trucks,” said Wenisch. “Obviously, that’s going to take a few years. Long-term, we’re hoping for a few new fire trucks. We’re also getting a couple new guys on here. We’re looking next year to interview some guys and keep everybody in the loop and happy and safe.”
He also pointed to continuing programs that keep Le Sueur safe like fire prevention training.
“The more fire prevention we do, the better everyone is on staying safe in their own personal houses and businesses,” said Wenisch. “It’s something we do every October that gets everyone involved, the community and the kids going to school. The kids love to see us and we love to talk to them and get them used to what we look like in internal gear so they’re not afraid. Being out there in the public eye and everyone seeing what a great job we do is a real gift to us and we’re privileged that way.”
From his years of experience as a firefighter, Wenisch said he learned how to adapt to unpredictable situations and address and build off of mistakes and would bring those lessons to his new position.
“Every day is a learning curve,” said Wenisch. “Every fire is different. You might go to a scene and in the heat of the moment you do it a certain way and have to rethink it ... [You] might sit down and think ‘I should have done it this way,’ and bring it up in front of all the guys and say ‘I apologize. I did it wrong at this call. Next call we should do it this way or plan B when we’re out there.’ Everything’s different, but you do learn on every single fire call. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been on for a year or you’ve been on for 20 years, it’s still a learning curve.”
At the same time, Wenisch said that learning curve is what keeps his job exciting.
“The other thing that makes the job fun is you might be paged to a car accident and instead of a car accident it might be a car on fire or somebody giving birth,” said Wenisch. “It’s just totally random. You can never be prepared for every aspect of it. That’s just what the pager goes off as. You’ve got to expect the worst and hope for the best.”