MARTINSVILLE (WSLS10) - After a 33-year-career at the Martinsville Fire Department, Chief Kenneth Draper is getting ready to retire at the end of the month.
"I'm going to miss coming up here," said Draper. "I'm going to miss the excitement of when the tones go off and listening to see what may be in store."
Draper's career path started on his 18th birthday when he was voted into the volunteer fire department. Now, after being on the department's payroll for 33-years and working his way up the ranks, the chief said it's a bittersweet goodbye.
"I was on shift work, working every third day at the fire department for 24 hours on and four to eight off," said Draper. "During that time, I'm with these people a third of my life. So, they're my second family."
Draper said improving the department's overall performance ranking by the Insurance Services Office, hiring the department's first female firefighter and graduating from the National Fire Academy are his greatest accomplishments.
The city's current Fire Marshal, who will take over as chief, has noticed Draper's commitment, hard work and dedication.
"He's taken care of this department and I don't know I can better that," said Anderson. "We always try to find ways to better the department, but when you're following behind a good man that's made a great department, that makes it a little bit tougher."
The Chief said one of the biggest changes during his time at the department is when the agency expanded to EMS.
"We went from roughly 500 calls a year to close to 3,000," added Draper.
The Chief said he's fortunate for such a successful career, but now he's ready for a new adventure. Upon retirement he plans to travel, golf and spend more time with family. His last day on the job is December 31.