Hail to the chief — Rierson reflects on 9 ½ year tenure leading Marshalltown Fire Department

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO — Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson, who led the department for 9 ½ years, worked his last day in the office on Friday and will be using up vacation days until his tenure officially ends on March 21.

Friday was Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson’s 66th birthday. He celebrated it by making it his last workday at his office inside the joint police and fire building on the 900 block of South Second Street.

Rierson will then be on vacation until March 21, when his 9 ½ year tenure as Marshalltown’s fire chief is officially set to end.

It had been a busy week leading up to his birthday, he said, with interviewing three fire chief finalists — one of whom will succeed him — and appearing at a public forum with two of the candidates on Thursday evening after a third, Cedar Rapids Battalion Chief Brian Giachino, withdrew his name from consideration. Thankfully, however, there were no EF-3 tornadoes or a derecho to overcome.

Rierson also was active in negotiations with the union representing the firefighters, and additionally, there were the day-to-day responsibilities of managing a staff of 29 and a $4 million annual budget.

The Mitchellville native told the Times-Republican that he and his wife have put their home up for sale while preparing for a move back to Kansas City, Mo. There, he worked in EMS and in other positions before becoming Marshalltown’s fire chief. Rierson is retiring from the city of Marshalltown but not the EMS/fire prevention/firefighting business.

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY — Rierson, right, interacted with Rick Rasmusson of Marshalltown at the conclusion of a public meet and greet event for the two remaining fire chief finalists at the Police/Fire building on Thursday night.

He has secured a position as a consultant, he said.

“I want to work when I want to work,” Rierson said with a smile while in his office, which was sparse due to the removal of mementos.

When not working as a consultant, Rierson will continue to follow NASCAR and stock-car competitions. He has followed the latter at the Marshalltown Speedway – the stock car racetrack on the Central Iowa Fairgrounds in the 1300 block of East Olive St. He also said he and his wife are looking forward to spending more time with their children and six grandchildren.

Rierson has always deferred from accepting individual tributes — instead, he insists that personal or department accomplishments were only made possible from energy and skill developed from teamwork.

Regardless, Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper, who now shares a building with the MFD, was effusive in his praise of Rierson.

“Chief Rierson leaves very large shoes to fill,” he said. “He has done a great job in the years he has been here. The fire department is in a better spot today than when he walked in the door. The chief has moved the department forward, while also being a community leader. We are going to miss him.”

Rierson worked aggressively with a large committee made up of architects, community leaders, public safety personnel and city council members in the planning, coordination and construction of the joint police and fire facility, which will celebrate its sixth anniversary later this year.

The committee had a challenging task — convincing at least 60 percent of voters to approve a bond issue to finance the project to replace a severely overcrowded fire station in the 100 block of South First Avenue and a police station in the 10 block of North Center Street.

They did — garnering over 65 percent of the votes cast, according to T-R archives.

Paul Peglow, a Marshalltown attorney who chaired the committee, was also complimentary toward the retiring chief.

“Chief Rierson has served the community in an exemplary manner for the past 9 ½ years,” he said. “He was instrumental in the design of the joint police and fire building and worked diligently in helping pass the bond issue for the facility. Through his leadership, our fire department is one of the most well-trained and equipped in Iowa. I appreciate all he has done for Marshalltown.”

Rierson cited the joint public safety building project as a highlight of his tenure. He is concerned, however, about state legislature initiatives that weaken “home rule” — as an example, several years ago Rierson and other Iowa public safety officials were outspoken in their opposition to the introduction and eventual passage of a bill that allowed the retail sale and use of fireworks to individuals. Of course, it passed nonetheless, though the use of consumer fireworks is still prohibited within Marshalltown’s city limits.

MFD Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Cross has worked with Rierson for a number of years and holds the chief in high regard.

“It has been an honor to serve in Chief Rierson’s administration,” Cross said. “As a younger officer, I have learned a great deal from him about people. He has taken great care of the people in the department and has provided outstanding fire protection to the citizens of Marshalltown. Under his leadership, we withstood a tornado and derecho. His influence in the department is significant and will be long-lasting. He will be missed.”


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