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Assignment Complete, Almost

This year’s Fire, Rescue and EMS College is Brad Ledbetter’s last official “Far School,” as he sometimes calls it. He will retire from MTCC on August 1st.

When Brad Ledbetter finishes his work Sunday at this weekend’s Fire, Rescue and EMS College, he will check out with McDowell Tech and McDowell Fire and Rescue Association: “Assignment Complete. End of shift. Enroute to quarters.”

Well, almost.

Brad Ledbetter

Under his guidance, McDowell Tech has had a lead role in the Fire, Rescue and EMS College for over 25 years, but Ledbetter will officially retire from McDowell Tech on August 1st of this year. This is his last “official” year coordinating the weekend training program.

But hopefully, it won’t be his last.

Brad has worked with the McDowell Fire, Rescue and EMS College since approximately 1985, before he even began working at McDowell Tech, when it was known more simply as ‘Fire School,” or “Far School” for those who happened to have a heavier Appalachian Mountain accent.

Under Ledbetter’s leadership, the annual Fire, Rescue and EMS training program has grown from a small, mostly-local event to the largest such program in the state, and one of the largest in the southeastern United States.

“We are extremely proud of Brad and his leadership with this program and related training in the Continuing Education Department at McDowell Tech.” said Dr. John Gossett, President of McDowell Technical Community College. “He is a highly-trained and proficient firefighter, both academically and in the field. We are blessed to have had him work with us for so long.”

Ledbetter came to work with McDowell Tech in 1992 after several years of work as co-owner of M.D. Ledbetter Oil Company and, later, as dispatcher at Tri-County Oil Company. But while he was working in the oil industry, he was also heavily involved in the fire and rescue community in McDowell County.

His certifications in the field are impeccable: NC Certified Firefighter Level II; NC Level II Fire Service Instructor; Firefighter of the Year; Certified Hazardous Materials Responder Level I-Operations Level; and NC Department of Justice, Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission Full Limited Lecturer Certificate, among others.

In addition, he has been a volunteer firefighter for several decades and has been Training Officer, Treasurer, Assistant Chief, and Chief of the Pleasant Gardens Volunteer Fire Department for over two decades, and has served on their board of directors, including two-and-a-half terms as Chairman. Over the years, he has also served on the 911 Advisory Committee; was Vice-Chairman of the local EMS Council; Vice-Chairman of Region C EMS Council EMD (emergency medical dispatcher) Steering Committee; Chairman of the Fire and Rescue College Training Committee; and LEPC (local emergency planning committee) committee member, among others.

Academically, Ledbetter holds an Associate’s degree from AB Tech in Fire Protection Technologies and did Bachelor’s studies at Western Carolina University in Emergency Management.

“We would hate to see someone with that kind of training and experience leave us—especially with Brad’s personality and connections to the Fire, Rescue and EMS community, locally and statewide,” said Gossett.

In fact, Gossett has had discussions with Ledbetter about doing part-time contract work with the college next year to continue coordinating the program.

There are lots of folks in the emergency services community who hope those discussions bear fruit. They know how hard it is to recruit firefighters and quality, certified instructors.

Firefighting is a tough business and with the danger of injury and death on every call, few are brave enough to tackle the task. Thucydides, an Athenian historian once wrote, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Ledbetter is one of those brave souls, and he knows how to recruit and train others just like him.

“We applaud Brad’s past successes, wish him well-deserved rest this fall, and look forward to the day he checks back in service next spring,” said Gossett.

Julie Padgett Buchanan

Keeping the Faith

A sweet and loving child of God returned to her heavenly father in the still and quiet of a bitterly-cold January morning earlier this week. Julie Buchanan, better known to most of her McDowell Tech family as Julie Padgett, ended her battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, on Wednesday, just a little more than 21 months after she was officially diagnosed with the disease.

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