Recently retired Barnesville police chief Dave Norris and recently retired fire chief Bob Smith, will serve as co grand marshals of the 55th annual Barnesville Pumpkin Festival parade on Saturday Sept. 29.
Dave Norris launched his law career as a Belmont County deputy reserve in 1986 during Sheriff Tom McCort’s tenure.
That move came after a long, sometimes spotty career in the surface and underground coal mines. Among the companies Norris was employed were Consol and ANCO and North American’s No. 6 mine. Norris was a bit apprehensive about going underground, but once down below, found the experience fine.
What wasn’t fine was the series of layoffs that was common in the coals fields in those days. After his hire at Belmont County, he enrolled in the police academy at Jeff Tech in Steubenville.
"I really enjoyed the study and took it very serious," Norris notes. "I was on the Dean’s List and graduated at the top of my class of 30 some students."
While working for McCort, Norris was called back to No. 6 but declined. "I decided I loved the work and it was a steady paycheck!"
"I did not go back to the mine and never looked back. I have never regretted it and never had any thoughts of leaving law enforcement."
"While I was in the sheriff’s office, I got to know all the communities. Barnesville was at the time, the best town in Belmont County," Norris opines.
"When a Barnesville job opened up in 1991, I applied but it went to a part-time auxiliary officer who moved up," says Norris.
But that guy bolted two weeks later and Norris was offered the job, the night-shift position.
During the early years, Norris thought he’d never get off night duty, but did when several Barnesville officers accepted jobs at the new prisons at St. Clairsville and Caldwell.
When Chris Ditto retired in 2006, after a 35-year career in Barnesville, 33 of these years as police chief, Norris was named by village council to fill the job.
"When I came on board, there were two cruisers. Time and again, when one was down, we had to borrow pick-ups from the VFD or water department."
Now the department has five cars necessary, in part, to the two school resource officers at the high school/middle school and elementary school plants and the K-9 unit.
There are also today 19 street cameras that are monitored from the dispatcher’s station in the municipal building.
"Some folks think it is for speed cameras, but they are not. Time and again, they have helped us solve crimes and keep our eyes and ears out there in the community, Norris says.
Of Barnesville, "It’s been a great place to be. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work," the chief offers, adding that this is a very supportive community.
Norris has no short-term plans for retirement besides a little rest and relaxation. That said, "I love to fish and hunt. I used to fish almost every day," he shares. Norris also enjoys a good game of golf.
Bob Smith, retired as Barnesville’s fire chief on May 31, he was appointed to the Barnesville Fire Department on May 5, 1968, 50 years ago.
Smith was a member of the Barnesville Police Department before he joined the fire department. The U.S. Army Engineers veteran worked a variety of jobs over the years including road construction, general construction and as a heavy equipment operator. With the job changes that came through the years, Smith said he didn’t expect to be with the department for 50 years.
"The downtown fire of Barnesville Dry Cleaning in the late 60s and the old garment factory/Kirk’s furniture warehouse on S. Gardner Street in 1974 were the most memorable fires," the chief reminisced.
The department moved from the municipal building to the new fire station on E. Church Street in 1978. Two years later, the EMS building was added completing the current structure.
Smith rose in the ranks of the department. He was promoted to captain in February 1976 and moved into the assistant chief position under "Shorty" Arnold in February 1989. Finally, he became fire chief in June 1999 upon Arnold’s retirement.
On the question of harmony at home with his beloved wife Sandy, Smith noted fires and emergencies tended to occur at the inopportune times including his daughter’s wedding reception.
"As I loaded my vehicle after the reception, a U.S. Military C47 aircraft made an emergency landing at Barnesville-Bradfield Airport. Off I went and Sandy was left to finish up."
Several family gatherings were also interrupted by an alarm drop, Smith noted.
Despite this, his wife was a real trooper. She, her good friend Jean Hall, and several others including Sandy Chambers, Marjorie Jones and Judy Gibson formed a ladies’ auxiliary that helped raise funds and support for the department for many years.
Smith’s wife gave him her full support right up until her passing two years ago following a courageous battle with cancer.
As Smith steps down, the department is well equipped with two engines, a ladder truck, one tanker, a brush truck, boat, four-wheeler, three emergency squads and two cars. The department’s service area is 83 square miles covering five townships.
The EMS was independent of the fire department initially but eventually folded into the department. While volunteers man the fire department, EMS is staffed 24/7 by paid employees. Two EMTs are on staff working either 16- or 24-hour shifts.
In Smith’s mind, none of this would have been possible without the support of Barnesville, Warren Township and the community at large. "This community has given us anything we’ve asked for. They have supported us 100% at all times."
As for Smith, he intends to spend time traveling and enjoying the company of his family. His daughter lives in Columbus and his son in Valley Grove.