A familiar face has been selected to run the St. Marys Fire Department.
City council members decided to hire from within, appointing longtime assistant fire chief Tom Lackner as the new fire chief. He replaces Robert Horton, who was appointed city manager after serving in the interim role since October, after John Holman was fired from the position.
Lackner started with the department in 1989 as a volunteer after a 20-year Navy career. He volunteered to help occupy his free time.
“I needed something to do, so I answered an ad in the paper for volunteers,” he said.
He had the basic firefighting training sailors receive before sea duty but he never had any experience fighting structure fires, wildfires, or responding to medical emergencies and car wrecks.
In 2000, Lackner, still a volunteer at the time, applied for the assistant fire chief job and became a full-time city employee. He worked side by side with Horton, never expecting he’d be city fire chief one day.
“I didn’t think he’d leave this job here,” Lackner said of Horton.
Luckily, filling in as interim fire chief has helped prepare him for some of the tasks a department head is required to perform. Lackner had the opportunity to develop his first budget for the department while Horton was filling in as interim city manager.
“I had an idea of what I was getting into when they offered me the job,” he said.
Lackner said it’s also helpful knowing the local geography, key personalities and all the public safety officials in the cities and county. The only advice given by his old boss was to think before speaking.
Horton said one of the most difficult parts of his new job happens when he hears a call that brings out the old fire chief in him and he has to remember he has different responsibilities now. But he believes the department is in good hands with Lackner as his replacement.
“I have had the privilege of experiencing Chief Lackner’s leadership,” Horton said. “He believes in getting the job done and inspiring confidence in those he interacts with.”