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School maintenance chief becomes fire coordinator

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HUDSON–The Hudson City School District (HCSD) promoted Paul Stalker to head maintenance worker, at the school board meeting April 21. In this position he will work with James Boyle, head of maintenance and facilities.

Mr. Boyle joined the HCSD last summer. Mr. Stalker has been a maintenance mechanic for the HCSD for several years. Mr. Boyle and Mr. Stalker replace George Keeler, who had been superintendent of buildings and grounds for 21 years and is now Columbia County fire coordinator. He retired from HCSD in March.

“It was a positive experience for me, and I hope it was a positive experience for all the folks I interacted with,” Mr. Keeler said of his HCSD years. Speaking March 11, he also said that at the same time he was an “active interior firefighter for 45 years.”

Mr. Keeler, who has lived in Columbia County all his life, grew up in Claverack, graduated from Hudson High School in 1975, and joined the A.B. Shaw Fire Company in Claverack that same year. With a background in “machinery and equipment repair,” he also had his own equipment business.

He said he didn’t expect to have a career in the public school system, but he did take a Civil Service exam to become a superintendent of buildings and grounds. He started working for the HCSD on March 1, 1999 and stayed 21 years.

Being superintendent of buildings and grounds “was a very complicated job” with a “wide range of responsibility,” Mr. Keeler said. It required knowledge of mechanical systems, honesty and the ability to focus on the job.” In his decades with the HCSD, he said the biggest change he has seen is security and safety training for both students and staff. “Safety and security has grown tenfold,” he said. And one of the best parts was “all the cooperation of many superintendents and multiple school boards to get modern facilities.”

While he was serving the HCSD, Mr. Keeler continued fighting fires. At A. B. Shaw he has “held every line office from lieutenant through chief.” In addition, for 16 years, he was a deputy fire coordinator for the county. For the past two years, he has been chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Claverack Fire District.

Mr. Keeler said his goals as county fire coordinator, a part-time position, include “continuing on some of the good programs set in place by my predecessors.” These include finishing a new training center for emergency services in Ghent, made possible with the backing of the County Board of Supervisors.

All fire departments in Columbia County are volunteer, and all face a shortage of members. Their challenge, Mr. Keeler said, is recruitment of new firefighters, retention of existing ones, and replacement of those who retire.

The Fire Coordinator’s Office “is a resource for all local fire departments and emergency services,” Mr. Keeler said. It offers assistance on many types of incidents, “administers a mutual aid plan and “facilitates training for fire and emergency services.”

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