Up Close & Personal With: Vince HoltPublished 10:53am Saturday, March 15, 2014
MERLE MONAHAN/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—Franklin Fire Chief Vince Holt jokes that he probably would not be a firefighter if he had not followed along with a crowd of boys from his church when he was a teenager.
“There is some truth to that,” he laughed. “I was at choir practice at Hunterdale Christian Church when I was 16 or 17, and all the boys left early to go to a meeting.
“I didn’t know where they were going, but I realized that I’d be the only boy left in the choir if I didn’t join them. So I followed.”
The gathering that Holt attended was the organizational meeting of the Hunterdale Junior Firemen in 1976, the second such department to be formed in Southampton County. The Ivor Junior Department was the first.
“This was the beginning,” he said. “And I’ve been involved in firefighting ever since.
Born and raised in the Franklin area, Holt graduated from Franklin High School and immediately went to work for Camp Manufacturing Company. As a member of the Hunterdale Senior Fire Department, he became more and more interested in firefighting.
“I really wanted to make firefighting my career,” Holt said, “but I had a good job and was reluctant to leave to look for work as a firefighter.”
So he took a military leave of absence from Camp’s and joined the Air Force for four years. Assigned to a crash firefighting unit in service, he was stationed in England for most of his time in service.
“I was able to take my wife, who was there for the four years,” Holt remembered with a smile. “When we left the states we had no children, but when we returned we had a little boy and a girl.
“Our son had not learned to talk, but we noticed our daughter was speaking with somewhat of an English accent, which was fascinating to our families back here.”
The young serviceman returned to Camp Manufacturing after he left the Air Force. Drawing on his military firefighting experience, he became the first full-time emergency response coordinator at the mill.
Holt said he is still in the Air Force Reserves and travels to Dover Air Force Base regularly for meetings.
His training was greatly challenged during the flooding of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
“It was one of the worst floods I’ve encountered,” he revealed, “so much of our city was under water and there was so much devastation.
“I have to say I think Franklin rebounded very well, however.”
The active grandfather, 55, who holds both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree in fire science, said he felt he had reached his goal as a career firefighter when he became chief of the Franklin Fire Department in 2002
“It brought back an old dream I had when I was with the Hunterdale Department,” Holt remembered. “I once heard former Franklin fire chief, Jim Wagenbach, speak at a meeting and I said to myself, ‘Someday I’m going to be fire chief and speak before a group of firefighters like he does.’
“Well, it finally happened,” he said with a smile. “I am very fortunate.
“The last 12 years have been very good,” he continued. “We have a wonderful group of firefighters who all respect each other and work wonderfully together.
“That includes volunteers, as well,” he said. “I can’t say how much help they are to our department.”
“As for my job, it goes without saying that I am happy to be the Franklin Fire Chief, and of course that makes my wife happy too,” he continued.
Holt smiled as he spoke of his children.
“It seems they have followed in my footsteps. My daughter was a Marine and married a Marine. One son is now in the Air Force and the other is a firefighter.
“I can’t be unhappy with their choices,” he added.
NAME: Vince Holt.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: I was born here.
OCCUPATION: Director of Emergency Services for the City of Franklin/Fire Chief.
MARITAL STATUS: I have been married to Connie for 34 years.
CHILDREN, AGES AND SCHOOLS: We have three children. Our daughter, April, lives in California; son, Michael, lives in Charleston, S.C.; and son, Jeffrey, lives in Ivor. We have five grandchildren.
FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: Any night out with my wife, Connie.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Squire House in Emporia.
FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Fried chicken and sweet iced tea.
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: I started as a firefighter when I was a teenager – joined the junior department in Hunterdale in 1976.
WHAT IN THE BEST THING ABOUT YOU: I am mild-tempered and patient.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST HABIT: I am a procrastinator and I can’t say no.
FAVORITE HOBBIES: Hunting, fishing and camping.
PET PEEVE: I don’t like people who are dishonest and not true to their word.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB: I was a gas station attendant at a gas station in Hunterdale.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As a good husband, father, grandfather and teacher within the fire service.
IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: My topic would the importance of volunteerism within the community, especially with the fire department and rescue squad. These organizations can always use an extra hand, so to speak, and volunteers are so important. I would like to see parents start teaching their children at an early age the importance of helping in the community. Give back to the community some of the things that have been given to you.