After more than 39 years fighting fires, Diamondhead Fire Chief Jerry Dubuisson has hung up his turn-out gear, retiring to spend more time with his family.
"Chief Dubuisson’s name is synonymous with community servant," according to the Mississippi Burn Foundation, which named him Fire Chief of the Year for 2014-2015.
"Throughout his long fire service career, Chief Dubuisson has served the fire service as a genuine example of a leader and mentor," according to the Burn Foundation. "Working his way up through the ranks of the fire department, the Chief has always taken time with his fellow firefighters to ensure they capture the knowledge necessary to be the best they can be. The Chief is always looking to make the people around him better."
"I will miss the people," Dubuisson said last week, "not only the people you work with, but the people you deal with every day. That interaction, particularly in a place like Diamondhead, where people come from all over the country -- from all over the world, really -- that's something very special."
Dubuisson's family and colleagues hosted a retirement party for him, but he didn't want anyone to make a fuss.
"I just kind of tried to ease out," he said. "I have kind of a thought -- we have people that retire after 25 or 30 years in the fire service, or law enforcement, and they get all kinds of recognition, but there are (other) people there working who deserve recognition every day."
Dubuisson began his career as a volunteer at the Long Beach Fire Department, working there for 27 years before coming to the Diamondhead department to replace retiring Chief Dennis Westbrook.
Dubuisson said there were many memorable moments over the course of his career, but perhaps none more so than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"Katrina has to be near the top because of the vast damage everywhere and all the people affected, and all the help people needed," he said. "Everybody needed something. And all the emergency responders -- as a first-responder, you're expected to do your job, yet all these people had homes destroyed, things lost, yet they kept on working.
"But I'll also always remember the friendships we made with people from all over this country, from Eugene, Oregon, all up and down the east coast. People came from all over the country to help. We're still in contact with a lot of those folks, they're still good friends, so it's nice finding a silver lining like that."
Dubuisson said one of things he enjoyed most about the job was training the new guys.
"I think about when we have that young firefighter who comes on board with us and they really aren't sure yet, but when they finally realize they've been called to do this, and they grow and flourish, I think that's very enjoyable to watch."
While Dubuisson has a lot of memories from his service, he said, "I have no regrets in my career. I walked out with a happy smile on my face.
"It's been really humbling to be in a career that you just can't wait to get up and go to work the next day. To have that opportunity, both in Long Beach for so long and in Diamondhead, I feel very fortunate. I know it sounds corny, but it's the truth.
Dubuisson's said his successor, Chief Mike Munger, is a 23-year veteran of the department, "and he's going to do a fantastic job."