Las Vegas firefighter Henry “Hank” Clinton will take the reins as the Springville Fire Department’s new fire chief — a post the city hasn’t had to worry about filling since 1985, when Phil Whitney first took the job, holding it until his October passing.
It’s a large void for anyone to step into, but Clinton is ready to give it a shot.
The California native has been clocking in at the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Department since 1982, working his way up the ranks from firefighter to battalion chief, his current position. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fire administration from Cogswell Polytechnical College and completed the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy in Maryland.
What’s more, the Nevadan is an avid fly fisherman, and routinely stole away to Utah to fish.
He’s got further Utah ties through his family — his wife, Kelly, graduated from Brigham Young University, where his daughter currently attends. His oldest son is married, and is studying at BYU-Idaho; his second son is studying at Utah Valley University; his youngest son is living at home to attend a community college.
Still, Clinton said wrapping up his life in Las Vegas — which he has until his April 5 start date to do — is going to be “a real whirlwind.”
“That’s the scary part — the nervousness of pulling up 28 years of roots and relocating,” he said.
But Springville was too good a fit to pass up.
“I was very impressed with the city when I came in for the interview,” he said. “That’s what sealed the deal for me — how progressive and forward-thinking the city fathers were for projecting growth. And everyone is nice.”
Springville operations manager Rod Oldroyd said he joined a panel that included fire department representatives, police Lt. Dave Caron, and city manager Troy Fitzgerald to choose among 35 applicants for the job, the description of which had to be rewritten by police chief Scott Finlayson because it had been so long.
“Every time you have a change like that, where you didn’t have to worry about it for decades, there will be big shoes to fill ... but I think the transition will go smoothly,” Oldroyd said.
That’s where Clinton’s tenacity will come in handy. His nickname in Las Vegas was “the Badger,” because of his dedication, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Department deputy chief Mike Myers said. Myers followed Clinton through the ranks and said Clinton became a mentor to him.
“He’s an outstanding leader; a very genuine, sincere and heartfelt individual,” Myers said. He said Clinton recently demonstrated his loyalty when he made it a point to tell his captains before anybody else that he would be leaving Las Vegas. As for his energy, Myers said one need look no further than the Leadville Trail 100 bike race that Clinton completed. The 100-mile “Race Across the Sky” sits atop the lung-bursting 10,000-foot elevation of Leadville, Colo.
“He lives the way he works — full of energy and desire,” Myers said.
Both Oldroyd and Clinton said the fire department volunteers have been and will continue to be of top importance for the Springville fire chief.
“My first priority is to assimilate myself into the fire service in Springville,” Clinton said. “It’s a new type of challenge, and I want to learn as much about the organization as I can.”
∫ Matt Reichman can be reached at (801) 344-2907 or email@example.com