MARISA AGHA,Pioneer Press
December 12, 2002

President Bush has named Roseville's fire chief to the review board that decides which public safety officers are among the bravest in the nation.

The White House has appointed Roseville Fire Chief Richard Gasaway to the Medal of Valor Review Board, an 11-member group that recommends to the attorney general which public safety officers should receive the annual honor. Gasaway, 41, was chosen for his dedication to fire service and commitment to Roseville, said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman.

"He is someone who has worked his way up through the ranks," Stanzel said. "Chief Gasaway is an outstanding leader in his community and an outstanding fire chief."

A phone call from a White House staffer a couple of months ago was the first Gasaway heard of his nomination. After several interviews and background checks, the city got word this week that President Bush had tapped one of its own.

"It came as much as a surprise to me as anybody," Gasaway said. "I see it as a tremendous honor to represent America's fire service. It's an honor that goes beyond words."

Though Gasaway is eager to serve on the board, he admits that he will find it difficult to choose no more than five public safety officers nationwide "given the number of heroic acts that occur each year." The honor goes to police officers, firefighters and emergency workers.

John Buckman, past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, nominated Gasaway after the White House asked for a recommendation. Buckman praised Gasaway's "guts" as Roseville's first full-time fire chief, a post he has held since 1999.

"Chief Gasaway has exhibited, to me, leadership and courage in leading his fire department," Buckman said. "I would hope that the community would believe that this is an honor for one of its own to serve on a White House Commission. This is a big deal."

The new post requires Gasaway to travel to Washington, D.C., two to four times a year, but the federal government will foot the bill. Gasaway will not be paid for his four-year term on the board.

City Manager Neal Beets said that the chief's new role should not interfere with his duties in Roseville and the city is glad to lend a hand to the White House. "I think it's quite a feather in our cap that the president has reached out to Roseville for this distinguished panel," Beets said. "We're proud to support him in this effort."

Marisa Agha, who covers north suburban Ramsey County, can be reached at magha@pioneer or (651) 228-2109.

2002 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.