When retiring Oakdale City Fire Captain Gary Cortes made his farewell speech at the special promotional and retirement ceremony at Station II on Tuesday, Jan. 19, a person would have to have been made of stone not to feel something as the famously stoic man admitted with a tearful glitter that he didn’t quite know how to put a cap on 30 years of service.
In other words: he didn’t know how to say goodbye and walk away.
“It’s something I haven’t grasped yet,” Cortes said to the crowd. “It’s a big chunk of your life. Where do you go? It’s still a part of my life. But I have no regrets whatsoever in my choice of career. I guess it’s just time to move on.”
Joining Cortes in retirement were Rick Morgan and Enrico Ferroni — the three of whom represented 84 years of collective fire service and experience leaving the city department.
Mayor Farrell Jackson was on hand for the event and said to the new promoted captains, “Congratulations…but those are big shoes to fill.”
Even so, Jackson added he was proud to see so many promoted within the city department.
Morgan added words of advice to those still in service, whether promoting or just coming in.
“Keep learning,” he said. “Every time you get the chance…take a class. You have to keep up with the technology because it’s always changing.”
City Manager Steve Hallam agreed, saying, “This is a special time in Oakdale’s history. I feel very confident and secure by your contribution we all achieve more.”
Hallam heaped praise upon the fire association for bringing unity to the table for successful negotiations.
He also had warm words of appreciation for those retiring as he said, “It’s difficult to place a value on that level of dedication.”
Prior to the retirement presentations, there were eight promotions for the city department.
Steven Sawyer and Hendrik de Witte were promoted to engineer; Brandon Scull, Louie Morua, and Jeromy Albrecht were promoted to relief specialist; and Daniel Cummins, Matthew Severson and Kevin Wise were promoted to captain.
Fire Chief Michael Botto said, “It’s very important to recognize our people’s achievements. Everyone is special to us and we appreciate you being here. None of these people were given these promotions — they earned it.”
A reception with light refreshments followed the ceremony.