By Travis Gulbrandson
Working with community members is one of the main goals of Vermillion’s new fire chief, and he spent Monday afternoon meeting many of them face-to-face.
An open house was held for Richard Shannon Draper in the city council chambers from 2-3:30 p.m., during which time he and his family got acquainted with as many local residents as they could.
“I really look forward to working with the community,” Draper said. “I strongly believe in a community-focused organization. We’re providing a service to the community, and the community is our customer.
“In my tenure, you’re going to see a lot more engaging and getting feedback from the community through inspections, fire prevention, being in the schools, things like that, but then also, whatever programs we can. Whenever the community says, ‘Hey, can you help us with this?’ If we can, we’re going to,” he said.
Draper comes to Vermillion with 28 years of service in the fire service. He grew up in Detroit and moved to Pennsylvania, where he first served as a volunteer.
“I think all kids kind of look at fire trucks and think, ‘I would like to do that,’ and I was one of those,” Draper said. “I think that when I was out east, I thought about volunteering, and I knew immediately it was something I enjoyed doing. Helping the community, working with the community in a volunteer organization. …
“I knew it was something I wanted to do for a career, so I was very fortunate to be able to turn my passion into a career,” he said.
After his time in Pennsylvania, Draper went overseas to the Balkan region, where he worked for Haliburton.
It was there that he married his wife, Hajnalka, with whom he has three children.
Just prior to starting in Vermillion on Dec. 31, Draper served at a fire department near Kansas City, MO.
“The Vermillion Fire Department is in a great spot, and membership is very strong,” he said. “I think that everything department-wise has gone really well. The previous fire chief, Doug Brunick, has done a great job.”
Draper said the department will “continue the forward progression that we’ve already established.”
This will include hosting more regional training events for other fire departments.
“We have an excellent burn tower facility, and I know that Wakonda, Gayville and even Yankton would like to come in and use the facility,” Draper said.
He also has plans to bring in some state classes and engage local business owners in a fire inspection program.
“It really is a positive thing,” he said. “It really will help insurance rates for everybody, and even our ISO rating. It’s something we’re required to do, and so we’re going to start doing it.”