A familiar face will be taking over the reins as chief of the St. Clair Fire Protection District early next year.
Board of directors President Robin Jobe announced that longtime St. Clair firefighter and alderman Leslie Crews was hired last week and will start his duties on Jan. 6.
“We’re looking forward to having Les on board,” Jobe told The Missourian on Monday morning. “He has a long and good history in this area, and we’re thrilled to have him. We know he will do an outstanding job for us.”
Crews will start on Jan. 6.
He replaces former Chief Eric Hinson, who currently is serving a 35-month prison term in the U.S. penitentiary in Marion, Ill. Hinson was found guilty in June of one felony count of fraud and five felony counts of tax evasion after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to the charges.
The charges stemmed from his misuse of about $593,236 of district funds between January 2006 and September 2011.
In the interim, Assistant Chief Mike Kelley has been serving as chief.
“We’re starting fresh and moving forward,” Jobe said. “We now have a new chief, and away we go.”
Jobe praised Kelley and the extra work he performed during the interim period.
“Mike did an excellent job for us,” Jobe said. “We’re thrilled he remains our assistant chief. And, we’re also thrilled that we’re back to full staff in the department.”
Crews, 56, lives in Washington, but was a longtime St. Clair resident.
He served as a St. Clair alderman for 16 years and worked in the St. Clair Fire Protection District from 1971 to 1996. He also served with the Monarch Fire Protection District from 1979 to 2011 and was with the Glendale Fire Department for one year.
“I am honored and privileged to be selected as the fire chief and become part of the team currently at the fire district and to serve the citizens in the St. Clair Fire Protection District,” Crews said. “I have made a lifetime commitment to public safety and feel that fire fighting is one of the noblest professions that a person can undertake. It has incredible rewards and responsibilities.”
Crews comes to St. Clair from Central County Dispatch out of St. Louis County.
“Les has 40 years in fire service,” Jobe said. “He is well-qualified.”
Crews’ hiring brings to a close two rounds of interviews within the district to find a fire chief. The first round ended with no one being hired because “no one met the qualifications,” Jobe said.
After that first attempt, however, Jobe said the board of directors tweaked their requirements.
“We checked further into Les’ background and decided he had the qualifications we needed,” Jobe said. “We’re confident he can do the job.”
According to his resume, Crews is certified in several areas, including as a fire officer and as a rope rescue technician, trench rescue technician, structural collapse technician, swiftwater rescue technician, boat operator rescue technician, helicopter rescue technician, ice rescue technician and hazardous materials technician.
He also has served as a training officer and instructor, including at East Central College and the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute.
During his fire fighting career, Crews responded to and assisted with the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001; to several hurricanes; to tornado relief, including in Joplin; and to flooding situations.
“To the community, I promise an effective and efficient fire department,” Crews told The Missourian. “I also look forward to building strong relationships with the law enforcement agencies, emergency medical service providers and the various community leaders.”