Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service’s longest serving employee worked his last shift Thursday.
Assistant Chief Mike Clemens, 66, retired after 46 years on the job.
Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the agency, said Clemens was the longest serving MCFRS employee.
Clemens, a former Montgomery County resident now living in Middletown, was in charge of MCFRS’s training academy. The facility is responsible for training more than 2,000 recruits and current employees, Piringer said.
In his 17 years at the training academy, Clemens led 29 graduating classes — more than any of his predecessors, according to Piringer.
Colleagues credited him with modernizing the Rockville facility.
“He made us understand that we were the tip of the spear. ... The training that occurs here can not only save a firefighter’s life, but save a citizen’s life,” Battalian Chief Charles Bartlett said.
Clemens, who grew up Prince George’s County, joined the “Future Firefighters” in Mount Rainier when he was 11.
Clemens started his MCFRS career in 1968 at Silver Spring’s Four Corners station. Months before joining MCFRS, Clemens helped battle fires during the Washington, D.C., riots in 1968.
Promotions took him to stations throughout the county. He was in Silver Spring in the 1980s, where he met his wife, Janet Clemens, a former firefighter.
His son, Craig Clemens 47, is now captain of the Colesville fire station.
After retirement, Mike Clemens said, he will work under a contract as a part-time program manager at the new training academy slated for Gaithersburg later this year.
He will be replaced by Assistant Capt. Andy Jones, who is a deputy fire marshal. Jones’ official duties at the training academy began on Monday..
Asked about his greatest accomplishment, Mike Clemens said it was the people he helped over the years.
“We don’t know you, but we’re going to give you everything we’ve got. Just like when you walk in here,” he said, referring to the MCFRS firefighters and staff. “You’ve got a couple hundred friends willing to help you and you don’t even know them. That’s what’s great about this service.”