‘I’m a little bitty cog’ – Jon Asper
EAGLE – Fire Chief Jon Asper isn’t big on self-recognition.Pay the man a compliment, and he’ll quickly credit the Greater Eagle Fire Department staff, his family and the whole community for any success he’s had.So, it’s no surprise that when Asper and his team of firefighters were selected “citizen of the year” the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, the chief immediately turned to praising others.”We function as a team – it’s not just me or the fire department,” Asper said. “We’re a community – this is the way it is supposed to be.”
Then he asks his trademark question, “Know what I mean?” – seeking assurance that the newspaper reporter isn’t giving him too much credit for accomplishments that involved many other people.Eagle resident Debby Beard, who nominated Asper for the award, noted in her nomination letter that Asper volunteers with other local organizations, including the Western Eagle County Ambulance District Board, the 911 Board and Eagle Fire Board.Under his leadership, the staff of fire department has become ubiquitous – they seem to be everywhere, whether it’s responding to emergency calls, manning the grill at a community barbecue or volunteering at the annual health fair.”This is just a big community circle – and I’m a little bitty cog,” Asper says.Asper credits his family, wife, Annette Lewis, and sons, Lewis and Jason Mirelez, for the support they have shown for his work.
Asper sends Gatorade to every Eagle Valley High School football game played in Gypsum and to drama activities. He arranges medical personnel for high school sporting events, free of charge.When a high school team makes it to a state-level of competition, Asper and his fire department make their send-off memorable by creating a mini-motorcade with fire trucks and sirens. Working with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Asper’s staff arranges for jail inmates to rake leaves and shovel snow at the homes of handicapped and senior citizens.Call the fire chief up and ask him for help with a community function, and his automatic response is, “Just tell me what you need.””Jon – Jon is very humble. He has given and given of himself for a very, very long time,” Beard says. “His tenacity, big heart, and grace have affected many in our valley.”
Asper has been with the fire department for 19 years and is just starting his 10th year as chief. He’s been legally blind for years now, due to a degenerative eye disease. He manages the department by telephone and by the sheer force of personality.Jeff Williams, a volunteer fire captain who lives in Grand Junction, puts in two, 48-hour shifts per month with the fire department. He credits Asper’s “exceptional vision” for the success of the department.”He knows where we came from, and knows where we’re headed,” Williams says. “He has a great ability to rally the troops behind him,” says Williams.Vail, Colorado