Fire Captain Dan Stefano probably should have received hazardous duty
pay for his service as the firefighters' public information officer a
few years ago when management was at odds with the rank and file.
However, that is not why the Exchange Club honored him as the 2005
Firefighter of the Year at a luncheon March 17 at Hotel Laguna.
"He contributes to the fire service every day," said Mike Macey,
the Fire Department's next fire chief.
Stefano's contributions include organizing the department's
wellness program with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, taking charge of reporting statistical data, representing the
department to a fire chiefs association, coordinating reserve
firefighters, mentoring new ones and teaching fire technology at the
community college level.
"But when the bell rings, can he do the job? Absolutely," Macey
Stefano was nominated for the prestigious Orange County Fire
Service Overachievers Award in 1999.
He began his career in Laguna Beach as a reserve firefighter in
1995 and was hired full-time in 1997. He was promoted to fire
engineer in December 2000 and to captain less than six months later.
Stefano has a bachelor's degree in speech communication from Cal
State Long Beach and a master's degree from USC.
He lives in Laguna Beach with his wife Michelle and their daughter
Sofia, both of whom attended the luncheon.
"Make no mistake -- fire service is a team job," Stefano said.
"I'm only a representative of the other 40 people in the department."
Stefano was presented with proclamations by Exchange Club
President Katy Moss, Mayor Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider, Sharon
Ashauer on behalf of Supervisor Tom Wilson and a representative of
state Assemblyman Chuck Devore's office.
"A lot of cities in South County do not have their own fire and
police departments," Pearson-Schneider said. "People here are proud
that we do."
A volunteer fire department was created in Laguna Beach in 1919.
The first station was built in 1931 where the Laguna Beach County
Water District building is located.
T.E. Seaman was the first chief. He had five firefighters. The
department went "pro" in 1948, but reserve firefighters still play an
"Reserve is a nice way of saying volunteer," Macey said. "The
reserves volunteer their time and talent. They carry a pager 24/7,
365 days. It doesn't go off at opportune times. Its 3 a.m. in a
driving rain or sitting down to dinner or as your kid is teeing off
in his first game."
Tim Jones was honored as the 2005 Reserve Firefighter of the Year,
with proclamations to prove it. Zolita Scott did the honors for the
Jones joined the department in 1996. He was promoted to apparatus
operator in 1998. He mentors reserve firefighters, and as a licensed
contractor, he has had a hand in repairs to station houses.
His special guests at the luncheon included his fiancee Sandy
Holt, his father Vito and his mother Rita.
"I've picked up something from each individual in the department,"
Macey also paid tribute to retiring Chief Ken MacLeod, whom he
will replace. MacLeod's last day on the job will be April 29.
His fire service did not begin in Laguna. He retired from county
Fire Authority, where he oversaw a staff of 1,600, 61 stations and a budget of $111 million, compared to 41 firefighters, four stations
and a $7 million budget in Laguna.
Club member Hal Werthe presented MacLeod with an award of
recognition. A State Assembly resolution declared him worthy of
recognition and Ashauer presented him with Wilson's proclamation.
"It's harder to leave here than it was to leave after 33 years
with the county." MacLeod said. "In a department of this size, in a
city of this size, you get to know everyone."
MacLeod said he had been snookered by Macey. He thought he was
attending the luncheon to make a presentation to department secretary
"She is the most important person in our department," MacLeod
said. "None of us can live without her. She is the day-care provider
for 40 firefighters."
Joyce began working for the city in the police department in 1980.
"In 1989, she came to her senses and transferred to the fire
department," MacLeod said.
Police Captain Danell Adams will make him pay for that comment,
Joyce's husband Bill, her son Scott, friend Suzanne Binko and
fellow Ebell Club members Cristina Calderone, Mitchellene Channels,
Janeen Hamera, Margaret Warder and Holly Piscopo were among the
guests at the luncheon.
Not to mention retired Fire Captain Bing Boka.
"He considers himself one of the family," MacLeod said.
Penny Stastny, an Ebell member, presented the award from the
Exchange Club, to which she also belongs. Joyce was recognized by
Devore's and Wilson's offices for 30 years of service to the city.
"I have the best position in the city," Joyce said. "All of our
employees are wonderful."
Many of them were at the luncheon.
Deputy City Clerk Mindy LaTendresse was among a contingent of city
employees that included Joe Chiquette, marine safety chief Mark
Klosterman, Police Captain Paul Workman, Lt. Mike Hall, Sgt. Guy
Miller, crime statistician Hilda Madrid, administrative secretary
Bernadette McCusker, code enforcement aide Mariann McNaughton and
investigative division secretary Nit Farnes.
Bree Burgess Rosen served as mistress of ceremonies. Sande
St.John, Jim Rue, Nori Townsend, and Hal and Sandi Werthe organized
Athens Group and Montage Resort & Spa sponsored the event. Gerald
Messineo, Village Laguna, Municipal Employees, Laguna Beach
Firefighters and the Police associations sponsored tables. Keire
Unique at Albertsons market supplied the flowers presented to the
guests of honor.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. Grant McCombs is hospitalized at Mission
Hospital. Cards should be sent to his home. The address is in the
* OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. Contributions are welcomed.