TOWN OF BELOIT - Placing equal values on education and experience, Town of Beloit Deputy Fire Chief Emeterio - "Emett," as he's known - Harold said one of the biggest lessons he's learned is to diversify his resume.
It's one of the reasons that after 33 years, he's ready to retire from the township's fire department.
The Town of Beloit is hosting a Retirement Open House for Harold from noon-3 p.m. on May 29 at Fire Station One, 2445 S. Afton Road. Fire Chief Gene Wright said the public is encouraged to come share stories and wish Harold the best of luck on his next endeavor. Light refreshments will be served.
May 29 also will be Harold's last day as a Town of Beloit firefighter.
The Town of Beloit Board of Supervisors honored Harold during their board meeting on Monday.
One memory that stood out to Harold about his service over the years was helping a mother deliver a healthy baby girl in the back of an ambulance on Christmas Day.
For more than three decades he has helped the town's fire department achieve rapid growth. When he started, the town only had emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and no ambulance. The township used to contract with the city for an ambulance, but over the years the town has been able to secure multiple ambulances and now offers paramedic-level service.
"I've seen a number of tactical changes in the fire service, but fundamentally the character and the heart of the firefighters - even though the name has changed - is the same," Harold said. "They're good people trying to make a difference and trying to help others. We have better equipment now than we ever had, but without good people it's just shiny tools sitting in a bay."
Harold said he can't take credit for the growth, as it was all a team effort.
Wright disagrees, saying Harold was a leader in helping the department transition from only offering EMT services to offering a paramedic program.
"He was a paramedic before we had paramedics," Wright said. "He was able to answer the questions we had when we were building the program."
Wright said it's going to be difficult to replace Harold, who has always valued education and has served as a mentor to many new firefighters.
"He lets people know that life is a combination of experience and knowledge," Wright said. "In a small department like this you do so much. With Emett especially we're not going to know what we're missing until he's gone."
Harold was recruited to serve as a paid-on-call firefighter while working at the former Sears, Roebuck and Company in Beloit right out of high school. The fire department voted him in at the end of May, 1986. When a captain retired at the end of December of 1986, former Chief Ray Hartje's restructuring allowed Harold to get promoted to full time on Jan. 1, 1987.
While at the department he completed his EMT training and certification, then he completed a paramedic program. While at the township he also served with the City of South Beloit from 1991-1995 as a firefighter/paramedic.
It was then that he began his transition from student to teacher. In 1996, he became an emergency medical services instructor at Blackhawk Technical College until 2008 when he decided his thirst for knowledge wasn't quenched.
So he went to college to receive a bachelor's degree in business management and communication followed by a masters of business administration from Concordia University-Wisconsin while also climbing the ranks at the fire department. In 1993, he was promoted to lieutenant. In 1997, he was promoted to captain. He then took on his current (and final) role with the fire department as deputy fire chief in 2014.
After more than three decades, he said it's time for him to try something new and give his body a break.
"As a deputy chief here you're a working chief at the Town of Beloit. So that means you're still the officer on the first engine out, or you're taking command, or you could be anywhere on the sliding scale of the hierarchy, which is good," Harold said. "The versatility is advantageous for our department, but after a certain amount of years doing it, it's harder on your body at 53 to jump out of bed and run. It's not healthy."
Harold said he's looking to seek out other opportunities to "put his degree to work," which he already has been doing by serving as an adjunct professor for his alma mater, Concordia University-Wisconsin. He teaches business and ethics classes, one of which started last week. His wife Donna Harold also works at Concordia, running the Beloit and Madison centers.
"I love to teach and help others better themselves. The whole part about leadership is helping others succeed," Harold said. "It's not about you when you get into this position. It's about helping others get better."
When he retires, Harold said he'll miss the people he served with the most.
"You have a great group of people that are here at a moment's notice coming together to solve a problem, including someone's life or property in jeopardy, and we make it happen...all of the opportunities I've had here at the department have been simply because I was a volunteer firefighter first," Harold said. "Once you do that, you're surrounded by people who encourage you to better yourself, who insist on you doing better each and every time. It drives you to better yourself."
Though he's somewhat eagerly awaiting the clock to strike 1500 hours on May 29, Harold said it's been an honor to serve.
"It's been a good 30 years. I've been blessed beyond measure. It's been a good career, and it's been good for family. It's been good for me," Harold said. "Hopefully somewhere down the line I helped someone make a difference. I'm just trying to make something of the dash between those two dates."