Retiring fire chief honored at outer East Portland luncheon

Exclusive: Take a look at Portland Fire & Rescue Chief John Klum’s retirement party in Parkrose, and meet Portland’s new Fire Chief …

-1 The training room at Portland Fire & Rescue Training Station 2 in Parkrose is filled with well-wishers at Chief John Klum’s retirement party.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It’s appropriate that the media has given special attention to the naming of Erin Janssens to the post of Portland’s Fire Chief. Janssens, a 24-year veteran of Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R), currently serving as the City of Portland’s Fire Marshal and Division Chief of Prevention, is the first woman ever to serve in this leadership position.

But, also part of the story is outgoing PF&R Chief John Klum. He was honored at a celebration on May 31 at Training Station 2 in Parkrose.

Outgoing PF&R Chief John Klum spends a moment with Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard.

The person in charge of the Fire Bureau, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, told East Portland News at the mid-County event, “Klum has been one of the best Fire Chiefs that the Bureau has had. It is been a great pleasure working with him.”

Beyond their personal relationship as the Fire Commissioner and Fire Chief, Leonard added, “He and I came through training about the same time, back in the 1970s; we worked with each other for almost 35 years. It is really quite an honor to have known John.”

Outgoing Fire Chief John Klum greets current and former Bureau staff at his retirement party.

PF&R Chief John Klum, who officially turned over the Bureau to Janssens on June 5 at a downtown Portland ceremony, looked wistful as he glanced around the spacious training room at Station two – filled with friends, co-workers, and family.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Klum reflected. “I’m finally coming to the realization that I’m exiting a career that I love. I’ve worked with these people – I can’t say enough good things about their professionalism and commitment. It’s like leaving a family.”

Cheering to him, however, Klum added, “is knowing that the Bureau is in the good hands of Erin Janssens. The future of the Bureau is very strong. The next generation will carry on, continue to improve and still do what they do best – serving people in the City of Portland.

Asked if he’d share his advice to an incoming Bureau chief, Klum responded, “Think before you make a decision; pick your battles; and, look for common ground. I’d add, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t let things stress you out.”

But, he added, “What I really want to tell Erin is ‘Keep doing what you’re doing – you’re already there. I’ve learned a great deal from you’.”

Newly-minted Fire Chief Erin Janssens reacted to the compliment: “Chief Klum has more than 34 years with the Bureau; and we are very fortunate to have had him. Did you know? Portland has received more than 131 cumulative years of service from his family. He followed a long line of public service and firefighters.”

Fire Commissioner Randy Leonard spoke about incoming Chief Janssens, saying her “rich experience, her outstanding political acumen, and the strength of her leadership and operational skills, make her the right person to lead the Bureau.”

To this, Janssens responded that she felt honored to be named to the post. “We have a great organization, with a lot of great people doing extraordinary work every day. We will continue to move forward.”

Newly appointed Fire Chief Erin Janssens talks with the Bureau’s Public Information Officer Paul Corah.

East Portland News asked Janssens about the emphasis many in the media have put on the fact she’s become Portland’s first female fire chief.

“You know, it’s kind of funny,” Janssens said. “Did I ever set out to be the first? No. I did set out to do a good job, to work hard alongside my coworkers – as all of us are – committed to helping people when they need us.

“For all of us, we respond to whatever emergencies arise, doing the best that we can to help. That is, and always has always been, our mission,” added Janssens.

“So, for me, it’s always been about working together to provide the best service we can. I don’t think about it in terms of being men or women; that’s never been my agenda.”

Janssens and Klum are working together to provide a seamless transition of command until his retirement in mid-June.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Comments are closed.

© 2005-2024 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.