June 3, 2022
After over 30 years with the City of Newberry, Keith Minick has retired as the fire chief of the Newberry Fire Department. Minick said he will miss his “other family” greatly, as this is all he has ever known.
The support of his family, but most of all his wife Katrina, has afforded him the opportunity to serve all these years, he said.
While as a child there was always a dream of the big red firetruck, Minick said working within the fire service was not in his overall plan when he graduated from high school. After graduation, Minick went to work for his uncle at a local shop, where he said two family members – his uncle and cousin’s husband, both involved as volunteers within the fire and rescue service persuaded him to consider the fire service.
“I got my start as a volunteer for the Silverstreet Fire Department,” he said.
Once his sights were set on the fire service, he said he never really looked back. Becoming a career firefighter in those days, Minick said was competitive.
“You really had to stand in line, wait your turn so to speak,” he said. “I was fortunate enough in 1991 to get hired by the Newberry Fire Department and it sparked a passion that I’ve had ever since.”
Coming into his career as a firefighter, Minick rose to the level of engineer, then to lieutenant in 1999 and captain in 2004. In 2008, he said he was honored to become the fire chief for the department.
Throughout his career, Minick said he has seen many changes come to the fire service. For starters, the emphasis on community risk reduction and the idea of “if we can prevent it [fires] we don’t have to fight it.”
“I think we’ve always focused efforts on fire prevention, but now you’re seeing more about community risk reduction and making sure the community is safe as a whole,” he said.
Minick said a career in the fire service was about having a passion to serve your community, and those you don’t know.
“Being that servant leader,” Minick said. “It’s not just a job to go to. I think that’s what has kept me in this profession for such a long time.”
Such a rewarding aspect of his career, he said was seeing children in the community that recognized him from fire prevention efforts at their school, or having a resident thank them for installing the smoke alarm that ultimately saved their family when their home caught fire.
Starting as fire chief, Minick said he had many goals, one being to build and continue to build partnerships with agencies throughout the area. Just recently, he said one of these goals was combined with another of his to develop training grounds.
“The partnership with Newberry County Emergency Services for the combined training facility has been a rewarding contribution to be a part of,” he said. “It was really a joint effort.”
Other goals coming to reality included the development of the career technology center and being able to put a designated staff member in charge of recruitment and retention for the department.
The network of the fire service, the meeting of new people, being a servant to people and helping them in their time of need is what Minick said he will miss most.
“The positive outcomes have outweighed the sad ones over the years,” he said. “The fire service in my mind is the greatest profession to be in. I can’t say enough about the comradery and the passion that people have, it’s unbelievable.”
While he is moving into another chapter of his life, Minick says he still plans to be involved in the fire service through volunteering. His plans also include continuing to volunteer with the South Carolina Firefighters’ Association in some capacity and to continue as the South Carolina State Firefighter Mobilization Regional Coordinator
For those considering a career in the fire service, he said it is the best job in the world.
“Whether you volunteer and get satisfaction through helping people that way, or whether you make it your career,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing of being in the fire service.”
As people try to find their place in life, Minick said he thinks it is a great career to pursue, being that its about passion and rewarding yourself by doing for others.
Looking towards the future, Gene Shealy officially stepped into the role of fire chief on June 1. Shealy has been with the City of Newberry since 2003 and was most recently in the role of recruitment and retention coordinator within the fire department.
Minick said he was ecstatic to be able to leave the fire department in good hands with the staff there.
“It’s been great to watch all the people in the department grow and move through the ranks. We have good people there – a lot of talent, a lot of people vested in their community and willing to serve,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes for those that are there.”
City Manager Matt DeWitt said the city had been fortunate to have had Minick within the fire service for such a long and successful tenure.
“We will miss Chief Minick, as we are like family, but his efforts have left the Newberry Fire Department in a great position to move forward,” he said. “He’s developed leadership that will continue to ensure the department’s continued success. We are confident and excited about the direction Chief Shealy will lead the team and continue to develop talented firefighters that Newberry can be proud and thankful for.”