On May 22, 2012, Mayor Kristen Brown led the swearing-in ceremony for Fire Chief/Director of Emergency Management, Joel Thacker, Deputy Chief of Operations, David Dwyer, and Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services, Mike Kutsko, in a ceremony at Fire Station 1 (Washington and 11th).
Earlier in April, Mayor Brown announced her choice of Joel Thacker as the new Fire Chief/Director of Emergency Management. Thacker is a 20-year veteran of the fire, rescue and emergency medical services and brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the new position.
Mayor Brown is delighted Thacker agreed to come to Columbus. “After interviewing many candidates, both internal and external, one stood out heads and shoulders from all others. His reputation is beyond reproach. His knowledge, leadership skills, and experience are particularly vital, as we progress the Fire Department to include rescue services and emergency services. Joel’s background is also essential as we - for the first time – plan and train for disasters, including floods, tornadoes, man-made disasters and mass casualty events.”
Thacker has worked his way through the ranks, holding every position on the White River Township Fire department, including Lieutenant, Captain, Shift Battalion Chief, Chief of Training and Safety, Chief of Emergency Medical Services and, currently, Chief of Administration. He holds numerous advanced certifications, including Paramedic, Fire Investigator, Pediatric Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, CPR, Hazardous Materials, Safety, and Vehicle and Machinery, Structural Collapse, Rope, Confined Space and Trench Rescue.
In his positions, Thacker has developed and implement emergency services policies and procedures in the areas of Firefighting, Emergency Medical Services, Rescue and Hazardous Materials Response and Disaster Response and Mitigation Plans. Additionally, Thacker was a member of Indiana Task Force One, a Federal Urban Search and Rescue Team based in Indianapolis from 2004-2009 and during this time, he served as a Certified Rescue Technician.
Thacker is well respected throughout the state by leaders in his profession. Thomas Hanify, President of the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana reiterated this in a recent statement. “I have known Joel for over 15 years and he is an outstanding leader. He is hard working, principled and capable. With Joel at the helm, the Columbus Fire Department will deliver the very best in class for fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the citizens of Columbus.”
Roger Johnson, President of the Indiana Firefighter’s Association echoed Hanify’s sentiments. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Joel for many years. He is an exceptionally talented and well-qualified professional. His vision of increasing the emergency response capabilities of the Columbus Fire Department maps perfectly to Mayor Brown’s vision of providing the highest quality fire, rescue and emergency medical services. Joel will be an invaluable asset to the citizens of Columbus and to the firefighters serving them.”
Johnson also applauded Mayor Brown’s willingness to look outside Columbus for the right candidate. “Today's fire and emergency services have an accepted practice of recruiting talented individuals for administration positions, and is a successful means of improving fire and emergency capabilities. In the last 20 years that acceptance has grown within Indiana to include Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, Greenfield, Bloomington, Westfield and numerous other agencies statewide. The opportunity to recruit an experienced leader is commonly accepted in private industry, and recognized by government agencies today as a winning solution for public safety.”
Currently, Thacker serves as a Section Chief of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 5 Incident Management Team. In this capacity, he works with agencies facing large planned events or incidents that strain those organizations’ ability to manage a current event or incident, including Super Bowl XLVI and the recent tornadoes in Clark County.
Thacker is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and is currently attending IUPUI where he is completing a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and