Phone: (314) 843-0102
Fax: (314) 843-0508
flag image

Crestwood fire chief retires after serving city nearly 40 years

Kestler originally planned to retire in May, but agreed to serve as acting administrator

Kari Williams
Staff Reporter
Karl Kestler
January 02, 2013 - In his nearly 40 years with the Crestwood Fire Department, Chief Karl Kestler saw the city hire its first female firefighter; watched the fire service transition to incorporate emergency medical services; and established a smoke-detector program for older residents.

Kestler retired Jan. 1 from the city he served for 37 years — and a career that began at the suggestion of a friend who was a firefighter.

"I had gotten laid off, and he said (I) might want to try the fire department," Kestler told the Call. "I always had an interest in it, so I applied out here and Affton at the same time. Crestwood called me first."

The fire chief said he has remained in the city just shy of four decades because of the people, and after being promoted to assistant fire chief in the early '90s Kestler moved into the city he had served for more than a decade.

"You meet a lot of people, become friends with a lot of people ... You always want the best for them," he said. "That's why when I was the assistant chief we started a smoke detector program for our older citizens. During the change your clock, change your battery (time of year), we would go out and install batteries for them and that way we know that they at least have a (working) smoke detector in their home, especially older residents ..."

Mayor Jeff Schlink told the Call though there is nothing wrong with city employees living outside of Crestwood, being a resident "gave Karl an extra appreciation for what he was doing."

"He would see the people being impacted daily .. and I think that that just gives you a little bit different perspective on how you're doing your job ...," Schlink said of Kestler, who was promoted to fire chief in 1997.

Assistant Fire Chief Mark Menning, who succeeds Kestler, told the Call Kestler has provided the department with "strong leadership, strong direction and a stable, consistent way of managing."

Menning said Kestler has taught him a "tremendous amount," such as how to take care of the firefighters, knowing what is important and having "very strong ethics and moral leadership."

"Not in so much as he even knew," Menning said. "It (was) just watching him and being around him."

Kestler originally planned to retire in May, but the city needed an acting city administrator after former City Administrator Petree Eastman's separation from the city, so he stepped up — something he has done on more than one occasion.

"They needed someone to do it, and the nature of the people that work in this business is to step up when things are needed," Kestler said.

Schlink said Kestler's "working knowledge" of the Fire Department and the city itself has been "extremely helpful" as Kestler has taken on the acting city administrator role.

"... He's just a joy to work with," Schlink said, "and he'll certainly be missed, but having said that Mark (Menning) has some large shoes to fill, but I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mark as well."

Though Menning said he was "pretty excited" to be selected as fire chief, he is not taking over a department "that's in need of a lot of updating."

"(Karl) left a very strong foundation and base, and we have the opportunity to build on that for the future," Menning said.

Menning said the Fire Department will miss the stability Kestler brought to the organization.

"He was always there, always in front," Menning said. "He made sure everybody had what they needed first. Took whatever there was last … (and we'll miss) just that high moral, ethical compass that we knew he was leading the department by."

Kestler is not only a "trusted employee," but "extremely loyal," according to Schlink.

"I think the example he has set for not only people in the Fire Department, but in other departments within the city, I think has been a huge contribution to the city of Crestwood," Schlink said.

Tags: Crestwood News

  • Related Editorial
    Our Town
    Two Memorial Day observances planned
    Two observances are slated on Monday for Memorial Day
    May 25 2016
    Memorial Day observances are planned Monday, May 30, at two south county sites — Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery and St. Lucas United Church of Christ....
    Impact News
    Crestwood aldermen to eye ordinance adopting rules of order
    Mabie works with Simpson, Stump in drafting measure
    May 25 2016
    A Crestwood alderman has proposed an ordinance that would establish rules governing conduct at board meetings, including adopting Robert’s Rules of Order....
    Our Town
    Teamsters representing Crestwood police
    May 25 2016
    Crestwood officials are preparing for negotiations with the city’s Police Department, which is the first law enforcement unit in the St. Louis area to unionize with the Teamsters....
    Our Town
    Lindbergh celebrates 25th annual Spirit Festival
    May 18 2016
    The Lindbergh community celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Lindbergh Spirit Festival on the Lindbergh High campus Saturday. The communitywide event featured games, rides, food, a parade and entertainment ...
    Impact News
    UPDATED: Defeated Crestwood candidate’s qualifications remain an issue
    Crestwood board conducts closed meeting on May 12
    May 18 2016
    The Crestwood Board of Aldermen voted 5-2 in a closed session last week to request that City Attorney Lisa Stump draft a “brief” statement clarifying the board’s authority regarding qualifications of ...
Sunset Ford
Site Search

Type in your zip code and click "Go" to get your 7-day forecast.