Longtime Stephenville fire chief announces retirement

LeAnda Staebner
Stephenville Empire-Tribune

Jimmy Chew has served the citizens of Stephenville for a long time so it was through an emotional announcement that the fire chief informed the city council of his planned retirement at a meeting last week.

In making the announcement, Chew, who has worked with the department for more than 50 years, said he chose the date — July 5 — because that was the date 123 years ago that the Stephenville Fire Department was established.

His final day on the job will be July 30.

"I have truly enjoyed working with the hard-working employees of the city of Stephenville," the retiring chief said.

According to previous E-T reports, Chew started his service to the city on Dec. 1, 1970. He was promoted to assistant fire chief on Jan. 1,  1988, and to fire chief on Oct. 1, 2005.

At a December 2020 city council meeting, Mayor Doug Svien read a proclamation honoring Chew for his service and declaring Dec. 1, 2020, as Fire Chief Jimmy Chew Day in Stephenville.

Chew, at that time, said his career with the fire department started "by complete accident," with his intentions being a career as a geologist. He said the fire department recruited him to fill in for another firefighter on a three-month absence and "I just never did leave."

Longtime Stephenville Fire Chief Jimmy Chew announces his retirement during last week's regular city council meeting.

At last week's meeting, Chew reflected on the many changes that have occurred during his tenure.

"In my 50-plus years with the department I have been fortunate enough to see many improvements in the services we provide and the capabilities we possess," he said.

Among those changes and improvements Chew named adding EMS services, updated equipment, a second fire station and increasing employee numbers, among others.

"I am very proud of my career with the city of Stephenville and the opportunities it has provided," Chew said. "It is very easy to be perceived as good at what you do when you are surrounded by the best at what they do."

According to previous E-T reports, Chew was named Fire Chief of the Year in 2017 by the Texas Fire Chiefs Association.

In addition, he is a past-president and former board member of the TFCA and the Texas Municipal League representative for the TFCA, according to www.txfirechiefs.org.

Chew also holds a Master Firefighter certification from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.

In his announcement, Chew thanked his parents for instilling in him a strong work ethic, and also his children who "always seemed to understand" when he had to leave in the middle of the night or miss an event.

He closed by thanking his "best friend and wife, Betty," who Chew said never complained when plans changed at the last minute or when he arrived home later than planned.

"She was always there with encouraging words and good advice when I needed it," he said.

Following a standing ovation by those present in the council chambers, several council members offered sentiments to the retiring chief.

"You've made a huge impact and I know I am blessed to have known you," said councilwoman LeAnn Durfey, who noted she grew up across the street from and has known the Chews her whole life.

"The mark of a man is to leave some place better than you've found it and you've definitely built a legacy and tradition for the fire department to build on," said Brandon Huckabee, mayor pro tem.

City officials indicated an event to honor the retiring chief will be held at a later date.