ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester Fire Department has new leadership.
It’s the first full week for Eric Kerska, as he takes on the role of chief. His predecessor being Greg Martin.
The promotion came from within. Martin said it was time for new leadership.
“I think it's time for Eric to jump in there and lead,” Martin said. “I've enjoyed my time. I wouldn't give it up for anything. I'd do it over, but it's just time for change.”
The two have a combined 60 years of firefighting experience. Both know there are changes coming to the community, and are making sure the department is prepared for them.
The department already responds to more than 10,000 calls every year.
“If they don't know who to call they call the fire department,” Martin said. “I mean our mission statement is basically solve problems with compassion.”
“I wish more people knew what our crews do from the smallest to the most tragic,” Kerska said. “The professionalism, the care, the compassion.”
It’s a number that might trend upward with a growing city.
“Well I think that everybody feels it,” Kerska said. “Rochester's in transition, and transitions always involve risk. You can ask anybody in the fire houses, ya know about the future and there's some unease and unknown. What does DMC mean? And is there really going to be 50,000 more people? And is it going to be impossible to park downtown? And all these what if's.”
They’re thoughts that are making the new chief look ahead, and protect what they have through it all.
“My goal is to understand better the changes facing Rochester,” Kerska said. “I don't think this will ever change. How do we maintain this dignity and respect and honor and the way our people treat the citizens? How do you maintain that excellence with all that change, all the growth, all this transition?”
In terms of resources, Kerska said many departments are lacking. One way he’ll deal with this is asking for what the department needs instead of what it wants.
Leadership also tells KIMT the department may also have to look at limiting what type of calls they go on in the future.