The City of Cedartown wished well a long-serving member of the Fire Department during an afternoon of celebrations at city hall.
Chief Darrell “Scooter” Stephens decided it was time to hang up his fire helmet and turnout gear after a 29 year career. City officials honored Stephens with a retirement party on May 13, and followed that up during the Cedartown Commission’s regular session with additional accolades and presentations.
“We are most proud of his accomplishments and of his service, and I am most proud personally to have served with him,” Cedartown City Manager Bill Fann said. “He is an honorable man and has a record of integrity.”
Fann did add jokingly that he was “a little mad” that Stephens wasn’t sticking around until Fann retires himself, to which the outgoing chief replied “you should have gotten here earlier.”
“I guess I deserve that,” Fann said.
The city manager continued however and added “To take on the resolve to become a fireman, and to move through the ranks from a rookie firefighter to the chief is quite an accomplishment for anybody.”
He was met with applause before he could finish the thought and add “to do with the honor and integrity I just spoke of, is even more impressive. We are fortunate at the City of Cedartown we are able to retain those kinds of people throughout the organization.”
Stephens was given a large plaque that included a mounted fire axe in honor of Stephens’ long service to the community.
Cedartown Commission Chair Matt Foster provided Stephens with the retirement gift from the city and words of thanks and encouragement.
“I’m a little choked up about it because I’ve known you my whole life,” Foster said. “And I’ve never heard a bad thing said about you.”
He additionally praised his long connections to Cedartown and Polk County, and wished him well with the gift.
“You have earned your retirement, sir,” Foster said.
Stephens, who began as a rookie firefighter all the way back in 1990, said it wasn’t just him who was able to step away from the job.
“Being a firefighter, you leave at any time day or night, no matter what the weather conditions are outside,” he said. “I have to thank my family. My wife, my son, my daughter and my daughter.”
He cited examples from early in his career: the Blizzard and tornadoes of 1993, Hurricane Opal’s path through west Georgia in 1995, and “I can go on and on and on. Where I left my home to help others, I left her (my wife) to take care of them. I have to thank you.”
Stephens said “it’s been a good time. We’ve had good times and bad times” yet in reflection on his 29 years of service, he found that “in any job you do.”
He’s only 50, and with recent attendance at an arson convention, he found that future job prospects with similar benefits provided by the City of Cedartown wasn’t out there.
Stephens pointedly thanked commissioners for their support of employees.
“I have people who came up to me (at the convention) who are 63, 64 or 65 and couldn’t retire because they couldn’t draw social security,” Stephens said. “Plus their county or city don’t have a good retirement like we do. I thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.”
He also thanked the commission “for trusting in me” in his final nearly four years serving as the city’s fire chief.
Stephens was greeted with a round of applause, and commissioner’s during the meeting’s close also praised the outgoing chief for his long service to the community.