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Fire Department Honors Its Past, Future

Promotions and thank you's are the order of the day.

Russell G. Middleton was officially sworn in as the first African-American to be promoted as Alexandria Fire Department's deputy chief during ceremonies Oct. 28 at the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple in Alexandria.

He joined 13 other department members in receiving promotions.

One of those included Daryl Ross, only the second woman firefighter to be promoted to officer rank. She is now a lieutenant.

The dual ceremony also recognized and honored those that have retired from the department since November 2002. "This is a celebration for them. Our retirees today represent nearly 400 years of service to the City and citizens of Alexandria," said Gary Mesaris, chief, Alexandria Fire Department.

In speaking of Middleton, Mesaris said previously, "He brings a very exceptional and unique set of skills to the job. With him in this position we can continue to move this department forward."

Middleton replaces former Deputy Chief James T. Gower who retired after 40 years of service to the department. He was one of those recognized at the recent ceremony along with former chief, Thomas Hawkins, Mesaris' immediate predecessor.

During a previous interview, Middleton revealed that he never doubted what he wanted to do for a lifetime. At 18 he began his firefighting career with the U.S. Air Force and has never wavered from that path.

Following his separation from military service at Andrews Air Force Base, his last duty station, Middleton joined the Alexandria Fire Department in March 1978. "I didn't officially leave the Air Force until May 1978, but I had acquired leave so I used it to go to Fire Recruit School," he said.

A native of the Borough of Queens, N.Y., today Middleton lives with his wife of 31 years, Debra, in Montgomery County, Md. They are the parents of five children, three girls and two boys. "The two oldest are married and we have two grandchildren," he said.

Although his sister still lives in Queens, his 90-year-old mother moved from New York to be near him and his family. She presently resides in a nearby assisted living facility, according to Middleton.

As for his evaluation of his new status, Middleton said, "I'm looking forward to further enhancing the lives of those that live and work in Alexandria."

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille congratulated those promoted and thanked the retirees for their years of service and dedication to the City and Fire Department. He was joined in that praise by Alexandria City Manager Philip Sunderland, who has announced his own retirement from public service.

To the assembled families of those being promoted, Sunderland said, "You share with the City of Alexandria one of the most important elements of your life. And, it's a very risky share that we all recognize. You are part of the Alexandria family. And, we want you to know that we greatly appreciate that."

Immediately following his official swearing in by Edward Semonian, Clerk of The Circuit Court, Middleton announced the names of those promoted and their new rank. A certificate was present to each by Mesaris prior to their being sworn in by Semonian.

PRECEDING THE PROMOTIONS and recognitions the colors were presented by the Department Color Guard. This was following by Callie Terrell singing the National Anthem.

Those promoted and their new rank were: Captain - Michael Cross, Rodney Masser, and John Moorehead; Lieutenant - Eric Kreisher, Daniel McMaster, Daryl Ross, Glenn Sengstack, Jeffrey Vallimont, and Jason Wehmeyer; Emergency Medical Services Supervisor - Brian Hricik; Fire Protection Specialist - Keith Ruby; Code Enforcement Inspector - Margaret King.

Retirees recognized and their years of service were: James Gower, 39; Clyde Campbell, 33; Don Short, 33; John Locke, 30;Micahel Milton, 30; Larry Ritchie, 28; Terrance Kisner, 28; Steven Rouser 28; Thomas Lucas, 26; Edward Schomp, 22; James Taber, 22; Edward Richardson, 20; David Thorne, 19; Jerome Beuchert, 18; Thomas Hawkins, 10; and Lloyd Edwards, 5.