Mayor Justin Taylor announced last week that the fire department has a new man at the top.
Chris Pezak, the city's code enforcement officer, has been appointed as fire chief and is already serving in that capacity. He will continue to hold both positions with the city.
Taylor said he's confident that Pezak is the right man for the job.
"Chris served the citizens of Jessup for many years as the chief of his volunteer hose company, as well as the Chief of the Borough," he related. "He brings a candid, no-nonsense approach to the position and is looking to improve the department in any way possible. He is open to suggestions and willing to make changes to keep our firefighters safe."
Taylor noted that "there's a very natural connection between code enforcement and the fire department, considering that code violations are typically involved in emergency situations such as fires."
"Chris has had the opportunity to see both sides of that," he explained.
Pezak replaces former chief Tom Brennan, who served in that post for about 10 years. Taylor stated that Brennan resigned at the end of May but will remain with the department as its senior firefighter.
"He's looking forward to the new administration and helping to make the transition an easy one," the mayor offered.
Pezak told the NEWS that he hopes to build on the work Brennan did as chief.
"I really have a lot of respect for Tommy," he noted. "I know it's not going to be easy taking over for someone who was there so long and did such a great job."
He said he was quite surprised to be offered the new post, explaining that "this came out of nowhere."
At the same time, Pezak noted that he's been involved with fire companies since he was 12 years old.
"I became a junior fireman in Jessup back in 1974," he recounted, "so it's been almost 40 years now."
He stated that he has been away from firefighting for several years and was "sort of brought out of retirement" to become fire chief.
"Yes, I took a little siesta there for a while," he noted with a laugh, "but fighting fires is like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it."
"It's something I've always loved to do," Pezak pointed out. "I've always wanted to help people. I'll help anyone — rich or poor, whether I know them or not."
As for the fire department, he said he's gotten to know the paid firefighters in his time as code enforcement officer and since taking over as chief.
"They're a great bunch of guys, totally dedicated to the job," he offered. "They're all willing to work and improve in any way we can."
Page 2 of 2 - "I know a lot of people complain about the cost of having a paid fire department, but the bottom line is that if your house or property catches on fire, you're guaranteed to have a truck and crew there," he related. "It's really a great asset for the city as far as I'm concerned."
Pezak added that he hopes to meet all of the volunteers in time and get to know them as well. He said a primary goal that he has in his new position is to build up the city's volunteer base.
"The fact of the matter is that you don't have to fight fires to be a fireman, there are lots of ways to help out," he offered. "I'm sure there are a lot of people out there, men and women, who could be a big help to us — and, if that's what they want to do, then my door is always open to them."
In a related matter, John Chervanka of the West Side Hose Co. was recently installed as an assistant chief.
"John is a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper now working in the Crime Division and Fire Marshal Division," the mayor noted. "He is an avid supporter of firefighter safety as well."
Pezak and Chervanka were sworn in by Mayor Taylor during separate ceremonies conducted at City Hall.
Taylor said another assistant chief has yet to be announced.