Tony Schaffer takes the helm as Swanton’s new fire chief with a boatload of experience and an eye on exemplary service.
The Cleveland-area native was approved for the position Nov. 25 by Swanton Village Council at Mayor Ann Roth’s recommendation. He replaces Michael Wolever, who retired five days later after years of service.
As chief, Schaffer, 50, will oversee a crew of nine full-time and six permanent part-time firefighters, and another 12 as-needed part-time personnel. The fire department serves Swanton and portions of Fulton and Swancreek townships.
“The direction we’re going to continue in is the direction of professionalism, and we want to be a department that firefighters want to be part of. And we always want to remain a relevant service,” he said.
A graduate of Keystone High School in LaGrange, Ohio, Schaffer graduated from Lorain County Community College with an associate’s degree in fire science. He served as a part-time firefighter and EMT for the Carlisle Township Fire Department from 1986-91, and with the City of Bellevue Fire Department full-time from 1990 until retiring last January, leaving as a lieutenant and shift officer.
During those years, and until 2015, Schaffer also worked part-time with the Cedar Point Fire Department. Following retirement, he continued a longtime sales position with MES Warren Fire Equipment.
He applied for the Swanton Fire Chief position last February, but wasn’t formally hired with the department until August. Schaffer began as a part-time deputy, learning the position under the tutelage of Wolever, who wasn’t ready to retire until he finished certain projects he had begun.
Schaffer said he accepted the job with the understanding he would succeed the chief. He said Wolever “was a great source of advice, and an amazing mentor. The wealth of knowledge that he has in the fire and emergency services field is phenomenal.”
Schaffer said he brings to the position an extensive background in fire service, education in public administration, and experience working with the community. He also brings the knowledge gained from years of serving in the trenches.
“As a chief, not forgetting the day-to-day challenges that our staff encounters is an important part of being the boss,” Schaffer said. “I’m able to relate to their concerns and needs.”
He said continuing challenges as chief include the increase in funding necessary to meet technological changes and training requirements. He said about 12 years ago it became a state mandate for firefighters to participate in continuing education and fire inspector training.
Schaffer also finds it important to nurture the sense of belonging, camaraderie, and professionalism well-established within his crew. “They’re already great in what they do. I hope to continue to do that,” he said.
Wolever, and especially Roth, persuaded him to take the job with their descriptions of and enthusiasm for Swanton and Fulton County, Schaffer said. “They talked about some of the positive things that are going on and the vision of continuing things that they started, and to keep this direction going,” he said.
Since arriving in Swanton, Schaffer has participated in community events and made himself available to community members, including as a speaker at the Swanton Rotary Club on Dec. 12.
“People seem receptive. The feedback seems positive so far,” he said.
Married for 28 years to his wife, Cathy, and a father of four, Schaffer said he’s ready to settle into his job as fire chief.
“I plan to be here as long as they’ll have me,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.