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More than just a chief

Ludden resigns from city fire

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More than just a chief

The City of Bolivar is on the hunt for a new leader of its fire department after Chief Jim Ludden resigned Friday, March 15, after six years at its helm.

According to a news release provided by City Administrator Tracy Slagle, Ludden has accepted a position with Battlefield Fire Protection District.  

As of press time Tuesday, Slagle said she had “no definite answers” on how the city plans to move ahead or the process of hiring a new chief.

According to previous BH-FP coverage, Ludden became BCFD’s chief July 1, 2012.

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Firefighter Jeremy Gallivan, left, and Chief Jim Ludden, right, put on their masks before entering the home in April 2017.

He joined the department in 2001 and served as a captain for four years prior to taking over as its leader. He was a student at Southwest Baptist University when he joined the department, according to previous coverage.

During Ludden’s tenure as Bolivar’s chief, BCFD experienced many changes, including its evolution from a volunteer department to a combination career/volunteer department in 2014, the release said.  

According to previous coverage, this move was largely thanks to a Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant for over $600,000 that allowed the department to pay salaries and benefits for nine full-time firefighters for two years.

Bolivar’s fire and police departments also moved into the Public Safety Center, previously a juvenile detention center, in 2014.  

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Barbara Shapiro, left, chats with BCFD Chief Jim Ludden, center, and Deputy Chief Brent Watkins as she picks up three smoke alarms for her Flemington home. She was the first recipient of smoke alarms made available by the Bolivar Area Community Foundation and Westlake Ace Hardware partnership in October 2016. 

In 2014 and 2015, the city purchased a new fire engine and new ladder truck for the department.

Most recently, Ludden led the department as its ISO rating moved from Class 3 to Class 2 following an assessment in 2018, a project several years in the making, according to previous coverage.

“This validates, both by national standards and by third-party evaluation, that our fire department is doing the right things and doing them very well,” Ludden said in a June 2018 board of aldermen meeting.

The release said only 3 percent of the fire districts in the United States have obtained a Class 2 rating.

More than just a fire chief, Ludden is also known for his involvement in the community.

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Even while serving a meal, Bolivar City Fire Department Chief Jim Ludden, center, is on duty, getting calls over his radio in November 2018. Also pictured is Jamie Sprague, right.

The release said Ludden raised funds for local charities, “directly supporting the wellness and needs of children in the greater Bolivar area.”

Thanks to the “Save it or shave it?” fundraising campaign this fall — which centered around Ludden’s signature handlebar mustache — the fire chief helped raise over $5,000 for Keeling Foundation for Kids.  

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Ouch! Bolivar City Fire Chief Jim Ludden looks a little pained as Bolivar Primary student Gibson Sanders makes the first cut in September 2018.

Bolivar Mayor Chris Warwick said he had “the great privilege of knowing and working with Chief Jim Ludden these last six years” and wished “him well in his new endeavor.”  

“Chief Ludden's dedication and precision for detail will be greatly missed,” Warwick said.

The release echoed Warwick’s sentiment, saying the city “wishes Chief Ludden the best in his new career.”

As he exits the department, Ludden said Tuesday he hopes to see the City of Bolivar and BCFD continue to succeed.  

“It truly has been an honor and blessing to serve as the fire chief of Bolivar,” he said. “I think we’ve made some incredible steps forward, but there are still several steps to go. I wish them the best.”

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Bolivar City Fire Chief Jim Ludden gives crews a thumbs up, indicating they had knocked down flames in a woodworking shop in November 2018.

Ludden said his move to Battlefield — a fire protection district he said is around three times larger than Bolivar’s fire department — affords him opportunities “both personally and professionally for growth and development in a larger system with more opportunities.”

When asked about the highlights of his six years as Bolivar’s fire chief, Ludden was quick to say he was “proud we made the transformation to a combination department.”

“I’m proud we really improved our service delivery model to get much closer to national standard times,” he said. “And I’m proud we earned an ISO 2 rating.”

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Bolivar Fire Chief Jim Ludden, left, talks Monday with Central Polk County Fire Protection District firefighter Michael Roomsburg on the scene of a fatal fire in the 2500 block of South Morrisville Road in February 2018.

Ludden said he’s also happy the city adopted national fire codes, helping enable effective community risk reduction.

During his tenure, Ludden said he’s proud to have fostered a “value system within a department that truly focused on what’s best for the community.”

Saying his family plans to remain in the Bolivar community, Ludden said he hopes to continue supporting the fire department.

“I’m absolutely going to miss my BCFD family,” he said. “I really do hope, given the opportunity, the board will allow me to serve part-time or in a volunteer manner with the department.”

He said he wishes BCFD’s firefighters well as they “continue to carry the torch forward to truly be a customer service organization for the city.”

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Don’t leave me hangin’. Chief Jim Ludden, left, and Deputy Chief Brent Watkins, right, share a laugh following Tuesday’s ceremony in May 2018.

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