New Willmar, Minn., fire chief: Maintain and improve customer service is the goal
WILLMAR — Gary A. Hendrickson, Willmar’s new fire chief/fire marshal, wants the Willmar Fire Department to maintain and improve customer service, including quick response time, whether it’s to a local residence or to someone passing through town.
“For the most part we are responding to your home potentially on your worst day,’’ says Hendrickson.
“The idea is to support the customer as much as we can and do what we can on their worst day.’’
Hendickson said educating the community about fire safety is another goal. He wants to expand on the work done in that area by former fire chief/fire marshal Marv Calvin, who Hendrickson said left the department in great shape.
“We have 31 paid on-call members. We’re authorized for 35. We’re staffed very well. We’ve got a really good fire department and a lot of good firefighters here,’’ he said.
Hendrickson also hopes to reach out and communicate safety messages to the minority population in their particular language if English is not their first language, and also work with businesses, the elderly and others.
“The community is our customer. We want to make sure we provide optimal service to them,’’ said Hendrickson.
The city will introduce Hendrickson to the community during an open house from 2 to 3 p.m. today at the fire station. Hendrickson, 42, and his wife, Charity, and young son, will be moving from Rockford to Willmar.
Hendrickson’s passion for the past 18 years has been the fire service.
Growing up, however, Hendrickson wanted to own a bar and/or a restaurant. He attended vocational cooking school, managed a couple of fast food restaurants and was an assistant kitchen manager for a Mexican restaurant.
But he tired of working busy weekends when others were enjoying themselves and worked for a time in assembly at a medical device manufacturer. The wages, however, were not what he envisioned.
He found his passion for the fire service after joining the city of Plymouth as a paid on-call firefighter in 1995. He was hazardous materials coordinator from 1998 to 2000, was lieutenant from 1999 to 2003 and served as captain from 2003 to 2007.
While working for Plymouth, Hendrickson joined the city of Brooklyn Park as a paid on-call firefighter, and served as lieutenant since 2011.
Hendrickson’s first day on the job in Willmar was Monday. He attended his first City Council meeting Monday night and spent a whirlwind week getting to know everybody and getting acclimated.
Hendrickson said his goal has been to get to the level of chief “and Willmar’s afforded me that opportunity.’’