30-year veteran tapped to lead department


IMLAY CITY — A firefighting veteran of 30 years has been named as Chief of the Imlay City Fire Department.

Keith Klobucar officially began his duties with the department October 31. He was sworn in to office on Thursday by Clerk Dawn Sawicki-Franz.

“I’m very familiar with the Imlay City fire department,” Klobucar said. “Having been on the Dryden department for so many years, there were many times we worked together.”

Imlay City Clerk Dawn Sawicki-Franz reads the Oath of Office to newly named Fire Chief Keith Klobucar. He began his duties with the city on October 31.

Klobucar stepped down from his duties as Assistant Chief in Dryden earlier this year. On-going turmoil in that department was partially a factor in his decision to look for other opportunities.

“I recently retired from GM after 35 years. I worked as an engineer for them and after retiring from Dryden Fire too, I suddenly found myself with time to do something different,” the new chief stated. “My wife actually was the one who told me I should look into this position when it became available.”

Klobucar, who is a fire instructor for Lapeer County and has previous experience running with Lapeer County EMS, said he was intrigued with the position in Imlay City.

“I am intrigued that there is so much diversity with industry, a commercial district, it’s a fairly rural area. You have I-69 and a rail system. There is a lot going on in town and I decided I wanted to go through the application process.”

Five candidates applied for the position with two finalists being selected.

The new chief will direct 14 members of the Imlay City department and is hoping to be able to recruit new members to the roster.

“I’ve had some one-on-one meetings with members and we’ll meet as a group next week to talk about things and one of the things is recruitment and retention,” Klobucar said. “It’s so difficult for
just about every department in the business, or in the industry for that matter, to get people to be on a fire department.”

With his background in education, Klobucar said he wants to be able to coach, teach and mentor the firefighters. He feels communication and transparency is important.

“Everyone on the department has a role to play and we will work together to find out what it is,” Klobucar explained. “We want to maximize each firefighter and use their talents and training to best help the department overall. It doesn’t matter if it is operating a truck, being an officer or fighting fire. We all have a role and I want to do everything I can to help make them successful while making sure they are well trained and safe at all times.”

Former Chief Rick Horton has been helping with the transition to a new chief, since his retirement at the end of September and continued on in his position as chief until the city hired his replacement.

“Rick’s a great guy,” Klobucar said. “I’ve worked with him many times and he ran the department very well.”

Klobucar says one of the biggest challenges for him will be to update an aging fleet of vehicles for the department.

“We are in pretty good shape with turnout gear and airpacks,” the new chief said. “We really need to take a long-term look at our fleet and see what has to be done and how soon. It takes a long time to get a truck, by the time you spec it out, order it and it’s built. It can be years before it is all done, so we have to know what we are going to do in the short term, but also have an eye out for the future.”

The new chief said he is well aware of mutual aid in the county and fully intends to utilize that service when and if the time comes.

“Every department has something to offer, whether it is apparatus or personnel when a department is called for mutual aid. We know what we have in our station and we won’t hesitate to call neighboring departments. We all work together well and know each other. Trust is a big thing.”

Klobucar says there will be no big changes once he is settled in his new position. In his opinion, there are five keys to success.

“You have to be honest, humble, open, transparent and trust each other,” he said. If you can do those things, you will have success.”

Klobucar said he is aware of the possibility of a formation of a Public Safety Department in Imlay City and the millage vote, to see if taxpayers will help fund the newly created branch of government.

“We just want to be in the community–to create interest in becoming a member or to take part in events. The rest of it will take care of itself.”

In his time on the Dryden department, Klobucar says he wrote over $500,000 in grants for firefighting needs and intends to continue to seek funding for Imlay City.

He also said regional grants are often available, combining efforts with neighboring departments in obtaining equipment or other needs.

If anyone has interest in joining the Imlay City Fire Department they can contact city hall or stop in at the fire hall.