By Jeff Gallatin
A wide-ranging background helped Edward Schepp become the next North Olmsted fire chief.
City Council was expected to approve Schepp’s hiring last night at a special meeting. He is currently a lieutenant in the Fairlawn Fire Department. For a transitional period starting July 15, he will work with current 10-year North Olmsted Chief Tom Klecan until Klecan’s formal retirement Aug. 30.
“I’m excited about the opportunity; this is something that I’ve wanted to do,” said Schepp. “I’m fortunate to be coming into an excellent department and am looking forward to working closely with the other department members and people in the city.”
Schepp has worked for the Fairlawn department since 1985, starting as a part-timer. He also worked for the Canton Fire Department from February 1989 until February 1997. He left Canton when he got the opportunity to become a full-time member and lieutenant in the Fairlawn Department in 1997.
North Olmsted safety/service Director Scott Thomas noted Schepp headed the field of five finalists for the position, which included one officer from within the North Olmsted department. Those five had been narrowed down from a field of 10 selected to be considered for the position.
“It’s taken a couple of months to get through the interview and selection process,” Thomas said. “We had a fine group of candidates.”
Thomas said Schepp’s diverse background helped him become the best candidate.
“He has excellent firefighting skills and also is certified as a paramedic and knows that part of the job well,” Thomas said. “He has a strong educational background in fire protection from several areas and did well at the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program. He’ll be bringing all that to the table and will also be learning while he works with Chief Klecan during the transitional period.”
Klecan, who became acting chief in 2002 and was formally appointed to the post in 2003, said he has strong first impressions of his successor.
“He’s a good fit here,” Klecan said. “Fairlawn is a similarly sized city to North Olmsted, so he understands this type of community. He also picked up valuable experience in Canton and in many professional courses.”
With Schepp being the first chief to come from outside the department, Klecan said that also can come into play.
“This an excellent department and the members do their job well,” he said. “Ed will be bringing an outsider’s perspective, and he’ll be able to look at it from that perspective and consider ways that there could be improvements as he reviews how things are done.”
Schepp said he’s been fortunate to work in departments like Fairlawn and Canton, where they were encouraged to better themselves.
“I probably could have stayed in Fairlawn and been content with that because I’m from that area,” he said. “But I had chiefs who embraced learning and upgrading the fire services. I started in Fairlawn as a part-timer and learned about what to do for being a firefighter and paramedic. Then, when I got the opportunity to go to Canton and become a full-time firefighter there while staying part time in Fairlawn, I did it. Canton was beneficial because it’s a larger department, and I learned a lot about fire and dealing with people.”
He said he returned to Fairlawn for the opportunity to go full time there and become an officer.
“Because I grew up around there, I like being in communities like Fairlawn,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons this job was also appealing, because North Olmsted is a similar city.”
He cited his educational experience at The University of Akron, Franklin University and Grand Canyon University as well as going to the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program, as being invaluable.
“The field has changed a lot through the years,” he said. “You have to deal with a lot of relatively new issues as a firefighter and paramedic, and I’ve always been encouraged by my chiefs to learn.”
Schepp said he also appreciates the opportunity to learn from Klecan and the other officers and members of the North Olmsted department.
“It’s a veteran department that knows its city and how to do its job,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with them. I’m not going to be making changes for change’s sake. We’ll work together on making it better.”