After 30 years of service, Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Department’s first secretary, Carol Whitaker, retired on July 1.
Prior to Whitaker’s employment, there had never been a department secretary. The “Chief of Staff,” as it was called back then, took care of most of the administrative items according to Whitaker.
“I was eager to take on the challenge,” said Whitaker, “and honored that they trusted me to do the job.”
After joining the department in 1988, Whitaker found out that her grandfather, Horton Dayton Smith, was Fire Chief of Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Chief from 1914-1918. His picture is now displayed at Fire Administration. Smith resigned to fight in World War I.
Whitaker worked under three fire chiefs, one chief of staff, and three deputy chiefs.
“With each change in leadership, the department progressed more and more,” she said.
When she started in 1988, there were 68 employees on shift and on staff, and there were a total of five fire stations. The department now has over 240 positions and will soon have 11 fire stations when Station 11 is completed in 2020.
“I’ve seen growth in this department with the addition of emergency medical responders, EMTs, paramedics, and paramedic instructors. We now have the finest fire equipment and engine companies.”
Whitaker estimated being on the job for approximately 316 hirings, 272 promotions, and also the death of 47 of her coworkers.
Whitaker often felt the stress of a working fire scene. She remembered a house fire on Van Cleve Lane off of Broad Street in cold temperatures.
“The water was freezing as soon as it began flowing toward the house,” she said. “The firefighters also had frozen water on their facemasks, gloves, and turnout gear. Chief David Baxter and staff began calling around buying all the gloves and hoods they could from area businesses to make sure that firefighters would have dry gloves and hoods to change into.”
Whitaker wants to travel more, including visiting her son, Brandyn, in Pittsburgh. She also looks forward to sharing the responsibility of caring for her younger sister, Amanda, and helping friends with their elderly parents when needed. She might even volunteer for some local organizations.
“The greatest thing about working at MFRD has always been the people … my coworkers, contacts with other city, county, and state departments, and the public,” Whitaker said.