Cordes, Sjolund leave with strong legacies
By Tony Ahern
End of an era at the Jefferson County Fire District No. 1. In a one-month period, two men who have been great firemen and great community leaders, will have left the department.
Former chief Earl Cordes ended a 23-year career at the close of last year. Earl, to an extent, built the department, oversaw its growth and operation. He become the first full-time paid chief in the mid-1980s, and led the department when the new fire hall was built in 1989. Earl was a stern leader on the lines, and always concerned first about the safety of his men and second, knocking the hell out of the fire as quickly as possible.
Earl could be feisty, a man who could effectively get his point across. But always very professional -- just what you need in a fire department leader, or a leader of just about anything.
Now comes news that Bob Sjolund, a professional with the Madras-based fire department since 1995, is taking a position in Redmond. Fireman Bob, as he became known through teaching kids fire safety, seemed born to be a Madras fireman, first chasing blazes as a 16-year-old volunteer. After becoming the district's first training officer and public education officer in 1995, he became the face of the department.
Sjolund's infectious, positive personality made him an unbeatable ambassador for the department and fire safety. Kids would see him and scream his name with excitement. They flat loved him. So did adults, but they were usually more controlled in his presence.
Fortunately Mark Carmen -- the longtime fire marshal who, like Cordes and Sjolund, is also a respected, effective community leader along with being a stud fireman -- remains with the district. But with Cordes and Sjolund both exiting the fire hall, there is no escaping the fact that an era has ended.
There's a new chief now, Jay Olson, and by all accounts he's excellent. The fire department will likely continue to be outstanding. Hopefully the department will not only continue to produce excellent firemen, but beloved community leaders as well. It now has a couple to replace.