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Q and A: Firefighter of the Year is having fun on the job

The Farmington Fire Department held its annual meeting last Friday. One of the highlights of the meeting is the announcement of the new Fire Fighter of the Year.

The 2009 Firefighter of the Year is Joe Tullar, a 13-year veteran of the department.

Tullar moved to Farmington in 1985. After serving active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, he returned to Farmington and, in June, 1996, joined the Farmington Fire Department.

These days, Tullar serves as the department's rescue captain. He is FFD's uniform officer, meaning he's the guy who makes sure the others are following protocol for special events and ceremonies. He's also the physical fitness coordinator, and, recently, was a member of the new member committee.

Why did you become a volunteer fire fighter?

Well, I had active duty from 1990 to 1995. In June of 1995, I came back home like everyone else does. I was going through school and like everyone else does, I thought it would be cool. I wanted to help out.

Has it turned out to be everything you thought it would be?

Yeah. I kind of look at it as, you were with the brotherhood in the Marines. You got out, and you kind of missed that. Now you grabbed another brotherhood. I've been in the Reserves since '95, and as of right now, I'm going to retire March 1. I got about six, yeah, a little more six years left until I could retire with 20 (years at FFD), but who knows if I'm going to stop there.

Has there ever been a time when you thought, 'Hey, this is more than I bargained for'?

So many answers to that. Overall, no. I've enjoyed every bit of it. I'd been single up until the last two years so I had the time and energy and effort to do it. Whenever I went on my escapades with the Marines, my time here didn't stop. It's essentially 13 more years of just trying to get people to understand where I come from and who I am, and why I believe what I believe. I think they got it now. We're a different clan, or a different species.

Talk turkey to me - how much fun do you have at Turkey Bingo?

I have a ball, it's just that, ah, my feet hurt when I get done with it. But I kind of like that stuff. It's cool. People, they're going to want something, you don't just stand there. There's no down time.

What about Tim Pietsch as a chief? He an OK guy?

Every once in a while... You know, you go from Kuch (former chief Ken Kuchera) to Tim, and you've got two different leadership style, and you've got to adjust, and I think we're in a major transformation.

That was my trick question.

Your trick question? To see if I'd answer or not? I'll talk to anybody about anything for any amount of a time period.

So, come last Friday night at the annual banquet - did you have any idea you were going to be named Firefighter of the Year?

After the banquet, a lot of other things kind of played into the effect. Some people ask, 'Well, why don't you think you deserve it?' but it doesn't really click until after the dinner, when you can look back and kind of see where it's coming from. I don't know. I don't do this for awards. I do it because I want to and I love doing it. I thought it was cool. I enjoyed it. I didn't know what to say.

And when they started reading your bio or recommendation or whatever, what were you thinking?

I thought of a couple other people. And then when they mentioned, used the term "bigger" and "opinionated" and stuff like that, I didn't know what or who to think at that time. I didn't think it would be me.

How does it feel to know your peers have that much respect for you as a person and a firefighter?

Good. You know, it's just kind of one of those things where I am still going to be there for them and do what I have to do. I appreciate it, it just probably didn't look like it.

There's been quite a few retirements in the past year. Any chance you're going to be among them soon?

Six and a half more years and I get to 20. It's not even a thought.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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