PROSPECT — A younger duo with 23 years of firefighting experience between them will lead the new generation of the Volunteer Fire Department of Prospect.
Assistant Fire Chief Jay Kolodziej, 28, is the department’s new chief, and Lt. Bill Lauber, 30, is moving up into the assistant’s post.
Both men vied for the chief’s position last Sunday, but the two previously agreed that no matter the outcome, they would work together. Kolodziej, who has served as assistant chief this past year, has 10 years with the department, while Lauber, who has served as a lieutenant for eight years, has 13 years with the department.
Members on Dec. 11 elected Kolodziej to the top post, and Lauber as assistant chief. Both positions are volunteer and receive no pay.
Kolodziej will fill the shoes of Charles Lautenschlager, 55, who served four years as chief.
Lautenschlager retired on Sept. 1 as a public works employee and recently gave up the chief’s job. He and his wife, Lynne, who will soon retire from Liberty Bank, are building their dream home in Wells Beach, Maine.
He will not be away from the fire service, though. He is a paid-per-call firefighter for the Wells Fire Department.
Lautenschlager, who served 27 years with the Prospect department, said Kolodziej and Lauber are gentlemen who have excelled in training to get to where they are.
“With the two of them together, they are going to be awesome,” Lautenschlager said. “They both have great talent.”
Last year, Kolodziej, who then was a captain, was elected to replace former Assistant Fire Chief Robert Chatfield, the town’s longtime mayor who at that time had withdrawn his name from a pool of four candidates for assistant fire chief. He now is in charge of daytime emergencies for the department. He also has served eight years as fire chief.
“Jason followed me as an assistant chief, and I believe the department is in capable hands,” Chatfield said.
He literally watched Lauber grow up, he said. Chatfield held Lauber in his arms at only a week old. Lauber is the son of Tax Collector Diane Lauber, and Chatfield was chief when Lauber joined the department.
“He will do a fine job also,” Chatfield said.
The goal of the two men is to recruit and retain members. Kolodziej said the outgoing chief did an excellent job of that, and he wants to keep that going.
Kolodziej, who works at loss prevention for a retailer, said when he initially joined the department, he never expected to become chief. Within five years of service, it became a goal and dream, he said.
He joined the department in January 2002 as a firefighter. During that time, he has served as a safety officer, lieutenant, captain and assistant chief before rising to chief. He lives in town with his father, Michael.
Lauber, who is a technician team leader at BMW of Bridgeport, said it has always been his ambition to work up to the top spot. He joined the department in January 1999 as a firefighter, and has served as a truck foreman, motor engineer and lieutenant. His wife, Ashley, is an emergency medical responder, and they have an 8-month-old son, William.
Kolodziej said he is in constant communication with Lauber, and believes they are going to work well together.
“I’m very excited and honored to lead the future generation of the department,” Kolodziej said.