Fire chief candidate has 20 years of experience

Published 7:07 am Monday, April 5, 2010

Editor’s note: The Austin Daily Herald is doing a series of short features on the three finalists for the city’s open fire chief position. This is the third and final story.

If Jarrod Wellik becomes Austin’s next fire chief, he won’t have to move far.

In fact, the 41-year-old firefighter would only need to hop on Interstate Highway 90 for a half-hour drive.

Wellik, a 20-year veteran of the fire service, currently works in Stewartville, Minn., and he said he’s been able to meet and work with a number of the current Austin firefighters over the years. He also teaches fire fighting classes at Riverland Community College.

“I think the community is wonderful,” he said.

The firefighter said his familiarity with Austin would serve him well. But being used to the area isn’t the only thing Wellik could bring to the job — his time with the Stewartville Fire Department, which is all volunteer, has gotten him used to working with part-time firefighters and made him really appreciate what they do.

Austin has a combination department, with both full-time and volunteer firefighters.

The Austin Fire Department has also had its share of controversy in the past year, from a drawn-out contract dispute to an investigation into former chief Dan Wilson. Wellik said he’s aware of the history but not deterred by it.

“They’ve come off some heated issues, and I think they’ve got a progressive group of guys,” he said. “I think I can help them move forward.”

To do so, Wellik said he would make sure to build camaraderie within the station.

“I think it’s very important to lay down the groundwork for respect,” the firefighter said.

Wellik’s career as a volunteer firefighter has, in fact, largely been shaped by respect. He was influenced to get into fire fighting by his father, who himself spent 31 years as a Stewartville firefighter. And his continued passion for the job is shaped not by a paycheck, but by the desire to help people and do something he enjoys.

“It’s the thing I do just for the love of doing it,” Wellik said.

Wellik brings that same kind of passion to his family of three, which includes a 17-year-old son, a 13-year-old daughter and his wife of 18 years. He said the family really enjoys to hit the links together, as they are all avid golfers.

So, look out, Austin Country Club, because if the city’s next fire chief comes from Stewartville, there might be a few new golfers in town.

There would also be a firefighter who really has a passion for what he does.

“I enjoy helping people,” Wellik said.