By Kevin Kelley
The retirement reception held during the lunch hour Friday at City Hall for retiring Fire Chief Dale Kraus was part tribute, part roast.
Mayor Dennis Clough was the first to poke fun at the chief, saying his wife, Gail, asked him if he could do something to make Kraus continue working.
“He can take it, because he can dish it out,” the mayor said, noting other city employees would also be roasting Kraus.
Kraus, 71, took a few jabs about his age.
Assistant Fire Chief James Hughes said the city’s antique fire truck, dating from 1913, was really the one Kraus used when he first became a fireman. He also said a resolution honoring Kraus was incorrect: Kraus wasn’t born in 1940; he entered the fire service in 1940.
Kraus also apparently had a, let’s say, straightforward approach to dealing with problems and problematic people. Several speakers at the reception testified that Kraus often asked them if there was anyone they wanted him to “take care of.”
In an unusual display of emotion, Clough got choked up while presenting Kraus with a proclamation declaring Friday as Dale Kraus day in the city.
Clough praised Kraus as a positive person who was very passionate about his job.
“He really cares about people,” the mayor said. “And I think that’s probably indicative about why he chose to be in the fire field. He’s always trying to help people. If he can’t help people, he’s tried to find somebody else who can assist.
“He’s always in a good mood,” Clough said. “And if he isn’t, he usually doesn’t let people see it.
The mayor said Kraus always had a funny story to tell. And if he didn’t have one, he’d make one up.
Lysa Stanton, president of the Westlake Historical Society, credited Kraus with always getting the city-owned 1913 antique fire engine to her organization’s events.
“It would break down, and they would have to send mechanics,” Stanton said. “But I always knew that Dale would take care of it.”
Kraus, who led the Westlake Fire Department since December 2009, told West Life he thought this was a good time to retire because he has a solid line of succession in place at the department.
“Basically I accomplished everything I came here to accomplish,” said Kraus, who served as Westlake’s fire marshal from 1999 to 2005. He also served as the coordinator of the city’s Community Emergency Response Team, a squad of volunteers specially trained to assist first responders handled emergencies. He worked to make the CERT program a regional effort among Westshore cities.
Kraus, who joined the Rocky River Fire Department in 1970 and served as its chief from 1994 to 1997, said the Westshore should move forward on a proposal to establish a regional fire district. There has been too much talk and not enough action on implementing the proposal, he said.
“I think it needs to be implemented rather than studied,” he said. “I think the citizens will get better service, and in the long run it will cost the cities less.”
Kraus said he and his wife plan to travel extensively during the next 15 months. Their itinerary includes visits to Utah, Florida, Alaska and Germany.