BRATTLEBORO -- The town said good-bye to Brattleboro Fire Department Capt. Billy Johnson during a special retirement ceremony held at Central Station on Elliot Street Wednesday.
Johnson is leaving the department after 30 years and he was recognized for his commitment and leadership.
"It's been awesome. If I had to do it all over again, career wise, there is nothing I would change," Johnson said. "I wouldn't change where I worked. I wouldn't change the people I work with and the people I work for. I wish you all the best of luck and stay safe."
Johnson grew up in Brattleboro, and at the Brattleboro station.
His father, Bob, was a full-time firefighter with the department.
Former Fire Brattleboro Fire Chief T. Howard Mattison hired Johnson and talked about the time his father brought up the idea of having his son join the department.
"I never had any kind of problem with Billy," Mattison said.
"When I came down in the morning he was always there."
Johnson was first named as an on-call firefighter while still in high school in 1979.
The next year he joined the Air Force, where he served for four years.
In 1984 he returned to Brattleboro, continued to serve as an on-call firefighter and in 1985 he was hired as a staff firefighter.
In 1988 he was promoted to lieutenant and then in 1998 he was named as a captain of the BFD.
"Thirty years is a long time for anyone in any career, but a career of 30 years in the Brattleboro Fire Department is something to be truly proud of," said interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland.
Moreland said he looked in Johnson's personnel file and found a self evaluation where he reflected on his impending retirement.
Johnson, Moreland said, was most concerned about the officers and staff he was leaving behind and how they would do without him
"To me that is a sign of true leadership," Moreland said.
BFD Chief Michael Bucossi said Johnson received a meritorious unit citation in 2007 for saving a patient from the Brattleboro Retreat who had fallen through the ice on the Retreat Meadows.
"Billy you'll be missed. The position will be filled but I'm not sure the shoes ever will be," said Chief Bucossi. "Thank you for everything you've done for us. We wish you nothing but the best in everything you do."
When the career staff voted to unionize Johnson was one of the firefighters who signed the original Brattleboro charter with the International Association of Firefighters Local 4439.
"Billy has been here a long time and he is very special to us," said Capt. Ron Hubbard, president of the local union. "We want to thank him for his many years of service, his many years of friendship, camaraderie and everything else he has done for us. He's been a fixture here."
Former BFD Chief David Emery said Johnson asked him when Emery knew it was time to retire.
Emery said it is just something you wake up one day knowing, and he said it was now Johnson's time to leave the department.
"He is leaving the fire service but he is not leaving without leaving his mark," Emery said. " Billy was great firefighter. He was a great fire officer, but most of all he was a great friend and a great brother. He is not leaving without risking his life multiple times, and all of you are a testament to what a great job he did."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.