Doyle closes book on four decade career
By LPR Staff
For longer than his children have been alive, Jerry Doyle has been a fixture in the Lockhart Fire Service.
Indeed, as a young husband, Doyle had planned for his career to take a vastly different path. A writer in high school and college, he had hoped to build a career as a sports writer, traveling across the na
tion, following his favorite teams all the way to the big games. Indeed, he had a taste of that life in college, and had planned to pursue it to riches and fame.
However, life interfered, and though Doyle’s path did not lead him to untold wealth – as few careers in journalism do – it did lead him to fame; at least, it led him to fame here in Lockhart.
“His passion for the fire service and emergency management is unsurpassed,” said City Manager Vance Rodgers. “He has even been on the phone, directing activity at a scene when he is traveling for training.”
Doyle’s storied career began in 1972 when, as a laborer in the City of Lockhart Water Department, he became a volunteer firefighter.
“There was a policy then that the volunteers would just drop everything and go when the fire alarm rang,” Doyle recalled. “And more than once, I left [Water and Wastewater Supervisor Billy Shirley] in a bind. I think he had more than a little to do with my getting on at the fire department later.”
Doyle first signed on as a professional firefighter in January 1975, a position he retained, with a few bumps and glitches, until the present.
“There were a few times that I explored other opportunities,” he said. “And I don’t know what it is about the Lockhart Fire Department, but it just kept pulling me back.”
In 1988, Doyle was promoted to Fire Marshal, a position he held until he was made Acting Fire Chief in 1998, upon the resignation of then-Chief John Walters. Reports at the time suggested Doyle took over the department in “a state of turmoil,” but his steadfast leadership helped keep the department together during the tenure of Chief Charles Yeager, until Doyle himself was appointed to the head seat in 2000.
“He’s seen our department grow and change from a nearly all-volunteer department, to the paid department that we are now,” Rodgers said. “And he has been on the leading edge of some of those changes.”
In particular, Doyle chose several years ago to participate in grant-writing training, in an effort to better serve the community by making the department an attractive applicant for a variety of grants, which have been used to expand the fire service in terms of equipment, training and apparatus.
“They asked me to tally them up, and I think it’s more than $300,000 in grants we’ve had in the last 10 years,” Doyle said. “And without those grants, the fire department wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Further, Rodgers said, Doyle has approached his job with forethought and planning, asking the Council on several occasions for additional resources to make sure the community can continue to be protected as it continues to grow.
“He’s the one that was instrumental in us getting the building on Highway 142,” Rodgers said. “He knew that as Lockhart continues to grow to the west, we’re going to need facilities out that way to increase response times.”
Although the facility now only houses one fire truck, and an EMS station, the property is structured in such a way to accommodate growth for another fire station in the future.
“There have been a lot of changes in my time here,” Doyle said. “When you think the department has been here for 126 years, and I’ve been here for 44 of those, that’s a long time and it might be time…”
The biggest change, Doyle noted, is the merger of Lockhart’s EMS and Fire service, which now requires firefighters to have EMT training and run on medical calls.
“When I first started, all we did was fight fires,” he said. “Then, the City took EMS over from the funeral homes, and then we all started having to have the EMT training, and now, it’s …
“Thankfully, we don’t have that many fires to fight, but we’re always busy.”
Doyle said the one thing he will miss the most is the feeling of family, through the generations of firefighters that have come through the Lockhart Fire Department during his tenure.
“It really gets into your blood and it never leaves you,” he said. “And the atmosphere of a fire department, of emergency services… it makes you close to each other, and it never really leaves you.”
Indeed, it may never really leave Doyle, who Rodgers said has already volunteered his services to ensure a smooth transition for incoming Fire Chief Joseph A. Golemon.
“He comes highly educated, and with the same passion for success that I’ve tried to instill in the guys during my time,” Doyle said. “I think that he’s going to be a great asset to the City.”
Doyle, who announced his retirement last month, will be honored at a celebration in the Lockhart City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, from 2 – 4 p.m. He will officially leave the Lockhart Fire Department on Saturday, Jan. 31, and Golemon will take office on Feb. 1.