A farewell to the chief

Throughout the fires and emergency calls, there is one thing Marshalltown Fire Chief Steve Edwards is most proud of during his time in the department – the safety of the firefighters.

“My biggest accomplishment is having everybody go home at the end of their shift,” Edwards said. “Firefighter safety is really important to me.”

Edwards is retiring; his last day is Sept. 26. He has been with the Marshalltown Fire Department since July 1, 1975 in a career that has spanned 38 years.

Edwards was working in a tire store in Marshalltown when a friend from his native Illinois said he should look into being a firefighter. The Army veteran and Eagle Scout said serving the community was something he learned while scouting so he thought it would be a good fit for him in the fire department. He stayed in the field for nearly four decades because it was a rewarding career.

“When you save somebody’s property and get them out of a fire, that’s a rewarding feeling,” Edwards said.

Edwards has seen many advancements – especially in firefighter safety – in his career including better suits and breathing equipment. Even something as simple as a bottle of water was not available to firefighters after dealing with a blaze when he started in 1975.

“We’d be done with fire then cool off by drinking water out of the hose,” he said.

Edwards became lieutenant in 1986, captain in 1989, battalion chief in 2001, deputy chief in 2003 and chief of the department in 2010.

He said the other city department heads in Marshalltown and the city council have been great to work with through the years.

“I’ve made some really good relationships and I really like being in the Marshalltown area,” Edwards said.

There are several memorable fires in his career including the Pickle Works in the 1970s. Coast to Coast in the 1980s, Third Street and Fremont in the 1990s and last year’s 135 E. Main St. blaze, his biggest as chief.

Edwards will turn 62 years old Sept. 16 and said he is retiring with mixed emotions. While he looks forward to less stress, he also feels he will miss the career he enjoys.

“I’m going to sit back and look at retirement and see if that’s what I want to do,” Edwards said. “I love the guys and gals that work here and I love what I do.”

Marshalltown Mayor Tommy Thompson said Edwards has had a great relationship with city officials.

“I think he’s done a very good job and we’ll miss him,” Thompson said.

City Administrator Randy Wetmore said Edwards has done his job professionally and has been a good team member. Wetmore said they plan to appoint an interim fire chief within the next few weeks and they plan to start their search for the next chief soon.

With more time on his hands, Edwards plans to travel, work on home improvement projects and spend more time with his wife, Jane, and their grown children, Jake and Brittny.

“Right now, I’m healthy and there’s some things I’d like to do,” the rural Le Grand resident said.

There will be two retirement receptions for Edwards on Sept. 26. One will be from 1 to 3 p.m. at the fire station and one will begin at 5 p.m. at Jake’s Game Room (Old Cellars Restaurant) at 207 E. Main St. No gifts are requested.