Outstanding Firefighter of the Year is solid leader

A fire chief who is involved in his community is The American Legion Outstanding Firefighter of the Year for Minnesota.

Kevin Grote, chief of the North Branch Fire Department and Region 7 representative with the Minnesota Fire Chief Association, was nominated by North Branch Post 85 and came with a recommendation from North Branch City Administrator Renae Lillegard Fry.

Kevin Grote

The administrator said she has worked with Grote for three years.

“Individual and department excellence comes from exemplary leadership,” she wrote. “I believe that Chief Grote has a documented history of excellence in leadership and is worthy of this prestigious award.”

Lillegard Fry said Grote consults his staff and works at team building and community engagement. He collaborates with city officials and has secured funding for new self-contained breathing apparatus and a new fire engine. He is waiting word on a FEMA grant for new radios for 11 area fire departments.

Grote has been a firefighter for 27 years. He started in North Branch in February 1993 and soon became the training officer. He became second assistant chief, then first assistant chief, before becoming chief in 2010.

He attended the University of Minnesota Morris and has been a middle school science teacher in North Branch for almost 30 years. He has two children. He lost his wife, Andrea, to cancer after 20-plus years of marriage.

North Branch Post 85 Commander Keith Hals said Grote is involved in youth activities as a coach and referee. He leads the high school trap-shooting team and teaches gun safety.