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Michael Skaza, left, will take over as West Rutland fire chief from his father, Joseph Skaza, who will retire after 47 years with the department.

WEST RUTLAND — With the new year, the fire department is getting a new Chief Skaza.

Joseph Skaza, who has served as the department’s chief for 28 years, announced his retirement this week. Taking over for him is his son, First Assistant Chief Michael Skaza, who was unanimously elected to the post by the department. Moving up into the younger Skaza’s former spot is Second Assistant Chief Thomas Lacz.

“I’ve worked closely with them for many years and they will do an excellent job,” the elder Skaza said.

Joseph Skaza started with the department in 1972.

“My father was a firefighter,” he said. “He served in the department for 30 years. ... I was pretty interested in what he did as a firefighter, serving the community.”

Skaza oversaw the modernization of the department’s fleet and the construction of a new fire station, but he shied away from touting any of his own accomplishments. Nor did he offer any war stories.

“There’s a lot of calls,” he said. “There was some tragedy, but nothing stands out. ... I’m just proud to serve the community.”

Skaza said he has no regrets, and the best part of the job was making a difference.

“At the end of a call, coming back to the station and knowing you helped somebody — that gave you a good feeling,” he said. “I would encourage some of the young fellas to get involved. It’s so hard to find volunteers today.”

For his day job, Skaza ran an excavating business. When he retired from that, he still did some road work for the town of Pittsford. He said he will continue to help out at the fire station as needed, and that he doesn’t have any specific plans for the extra time he’ll have now that he’s no longer chief.

“Free time usually fills itself,” he said. “Something always comes along.”


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