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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Leavenworth assistant chief named State Firefighter of the Year

  • When Mark Nietzke tried to get a job with the Leavenworth Fire Department, he initially didn't make the cut. But, he was hired a month later, and has remained with the Fire Department for 29 years.
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  • When Mark Nietzke tried to get a job with the Leavenworth Fire Department, he initially didn't make the cut. But, he was hired a month later, and has remained with the Fire Department for 29 years.
    Nietzke's service was recognized Thursday when the Kansas Veterans of Foreign Wars named him the 2013-14 State Firefighter of the Year.
    "I was so surprised I could hardly talk," Nietzke said.
    Nietzke is an assistant chief and also serves as the city's fire marshal.
    The award was presented at George Edward White VFW Post 56 in downtown Leavenworth by Lynn Rolf III, VFW state commander.
    Rolf, who is from Leavenworth, said 154 VFW posts in Kansas compete for the award every year by submitting nominations.
    "You stood above board across Kansas," Rolf said to Nietzke.
    Nietzke was presented with two plaques.
    Rolf said one was for Nietzke, and the other was intended for display at the fire station.
    Nietzke also was presented a citation signed by the VFW's national commander-in-chief and adjutant general.
    Rolf said Nietzke's nomination started at the local VFW post and advanced to the district level before being considered at the state level.
    Rolf said he was impressed by Nietzke's "years of service and his breadth of experience."
    Leavenworth Fire Chief Gary Birch said he wrote a letter nominating Nietzke at the post level.
    Birch said people sometimes forget to recognize firefighters such as Nietzke whose duties include public safety education and fire inspections. But, he said the work is important to the firefighters' mission of protecting people's lives and property.
    Birch said no one told Nietzke he had been selected State Firefighter of the Year before Thursday's presentation.
    Nietzke had accompanied Birch to the VFW hall thinking they would be making a presentation about safety.
    After arriving, he realized something else was happening because his wife and the Fire Department's administrative assistant were waiting at the VFW.
    "It's truly an honor," Nietzke said after the presentation.
    Nietzke joined the Fire Department in 1985 and worked his way up the ranks to assistant chief. Beginning in late 2012, Nietzke served as acting chief for nearly a year until Birch's arrival in October 2013.
    Nietzke said he enjoys being a firefighter because it's rewarding and he likes working with the public.
    Even though he is eligible for retirement, Nietzke said he has no plans of stepping down.
    "I really enjoy what I'm doing," he said.
    Nietzke wasn't the only person to receive an award Thursday at the VFW.
    Officials with VFW Post 56 presented certificates of achievement to members of the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Honor Guard participates in local parades and other events.
    Members of the Sheriff's Office who received certificates were Lt. Eric Thorne and Deputies Steve Traglio, Megan Mance, Zack Phillips, Brandon Marshall and Sara Flaherty. Sgt. Tyler Fast also was recognized but was unable to attend the event.

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