A COLERAIN native is moving up the fire department ladder in Columbus.
Steve Saksa, a 1987 St. John Central graduate, has recently been promoted to the rank of lieutenant with the Columbus Fire Department. He has been with the department since 1994.
"I have been fortunate to come across and learn from so many tremendous people," Saksa said. "I have enjoyed every minute of my time with the department.
"I am proud and honored of being named lieutenant," he continued. "I will do whatever our department needs."
After picking up his diploma at St. John's, where he distinguished himself in football, basketball and track, Saksa headed off to the University of Akron. After one year with the Zips, he opted for a new direction in his life, one which has paid huge and continuing dividends.
Saksa opted to head to Oklahoma State to be part of its fire protection and safety program -- one of the highest regarded in the nation. He earned a four-year degree from the program and experienced some interesting and enlightning internships along the way.
While earning his degree at Oklahoma State, he took part in internships in California, a Department of Energy facility in Cincinnati as well as two summers on the North Slope of Alaska.
After picking up his diploma from the Stillwater-based university, Saksa matriculated back to the Ohio Valley. He worked part-time for some eight months with the Cumberland Trail Fire Department which led to an appointment with the Columbus Fire Department in March of 1994, the same year in which he graduated from the Columbus Fire Academy.
He worked in various sections of the city before he "made the greatest move of my career."
"I decided to transfer to the south end to work for the Parsons and Jenkins Co. I stayed there for 10 years," Saksa said. "It was a neighborhood firehouse with our own crew, officers and chief. It was a single house and we crossed work with EMS.
"It taught me a lot. It was the best of times," he continued. I really miss that place."
He opted to move on in order to gain some ladder company experience. The request to join a ladder company came from another Colerain native, Greg Lash.
"It was special working with another local guy. I couldn't pass on that opportunity," Saksa noted. "We worked together for one year. When Greg retired it resulted in me being promoted."
That promotion became effective this past Easter.
Saksa, 44, is now a roving officer for the department.
He is also an active member of the Columbus Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 67 as a former Union Steward as well as a long-time member of the department's Health and Safety Committee.
Saksa's firefighting career is steeped in success. He is the recipient of Ohio Fire Service Medal of Valor, the Medal of Merit and a two-time winner of the Battalion Chief Commendation. He is also a State Fire Academy instructor.
In addition to his regular duties, Saksa is also a Technical Search Specialist with FEMA National Urban Search and Rescue, Ohio Task Force One based out of Dayton
"It's been a fun ride," Saksa said. "I have had great role models in my parents and family. I have learned a lot from everyone."
Saksa also prides himself on community involvement. That is reflected by his servings as a Huntington Hills Pool trustee, Pickerington schools PTO volunteer while also donating time with the high school youth group at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Pickerington.
His career and community resume morphs seamlessly in his remaining goals.
"I would like to continue to move up the ranks, but my biggest goals are outside the fire department," Saksa said. "I want to be a great husband and dad. Raising my family is my top priority. I also want to help the PTO and the community pool."
His family consists of wife Lisa, a Grove City native, and three children: Kylee, 15; Sydnee, 13; and Blake, 10. They reside in Pickerington, as does Steve's brother Chris.
Steve is the son of Steve and Marge Saksa of Colerian.
"I guess looking back and looking to the future, I'm so blessed to have been surrounded by tremendous people both in the Ohio Valley and here in Columbus. It reminds me of the fable or saying, "Standing on the shoulders of giants," those giants lifted me up so that I could see further," Saksa said. "I just hope I can do the same, pay it forward, so to speak. People like Jim Delman, Sunset Heights, Zig Tesnairz and Bob Finney from Colerain, Cliff Sligar, Greg Reline and Ken Saffel from Cumberland Trail. Guys like that were instrumental in my career and they did, and continue to do, great work back there in the Valley."
Kapral may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org