State rep. honors retiring battalion chiefs

By: Sarah Wojcik, | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 16, 2016

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — On March 7, state Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, visited the Shelby Township Fire Department headquarters to present tributes to battalion chiefs Brad Follis and Michael Gaydos, who retired from the department after 25 years.

“This is the first time in my career that we’ve had someone at the state level take interest in the individual achievements of our firefighters, especially on big incidents like the Crystal Lake fire to the Stony Creek incident,” Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski said.

Swinkowski said the recognition is not only good for the morale of Shelby’s fire personnel, but also for fire legislation in Lansing.

“(Rep. Lucido is) sending me thank-you cards all the time when he reads something in the paper and sees the job the men and women are doing here,” Swinkowski said. “People notice what we’re doing, and I think it’s a very good feeling for (the firefighters).”

Lucido said he felt it was important to exemplify the accomplishments and works of first responders so that the public realizes what its tax dollars fund.

“Me and my family, we chose Shelby Township because of public safety, churches, schools and the community,” Lucido told a conference room full of fire personnel. “Maybe not so much in that order, but I appreciate all that you do every day.”

He said he wanted to award Follis and Gaydos tributes signed by Gov. Rick Snyder and state Sen. Jack Brandenburg as a way of saying “thank you” and “good luck.”

Follis, 47, of Shelby Township, began his career with the township.

“The career is an adventure — it’s an awesome ride,” he said. “It’s a little bittersweet because I don’t really want to go, but it’s time. It’s a young person’s job. Your body starts breaking down.”

He said the basic principles of firefighting haven’t changed, but the advances in medical and firefighting technology have been amazing and crucial in saving more lives.

When he first started, Follis said, the Fire Department would go on three or four runs in a “trick” — what firefighters call three days of working. Now, he said, the department runs an average of 20 runs per day.

His plans now, he said, are to work on projects around the house and focus on his wife’s campaign for Macomb County Circuit Court judge.

Gaydos, 49, of New Baltimore, began his career as an active-duty firefighter for the U.S. Air Force for four years and then retired from the reserves as a deputy fire chief in 2007.

The Macomb County Firefighters Association recently honored Gaydos as the Macomb County Firefighter of the Year for launching and leading the county’s multijurisdictional HAZMAT team.

“I’m still excited about the job and I still love this job,” he said. “I would probably stay on forever, but financially and with the family at home, it doesn’t make sense to stay on.”

He said he looks forward to making all of his three boys’ sports events and concerts, which he could not do before because he was always working, as well as completing projects around the house.

“I would like to be a fire chief,” Gaydos said of his future plans. “I’ve been applying for that and I have apps out right now.”