Gibson continues to make impact on Midlo community

Spotlight on: Mr. Steve Gibson


Photo by: Steve Gibson

Substitute Mr.Gibson enjoys a beautiful fall day with his wife Kathy.

Substitutes play a integral part in making school run smoothly. One of these amazing Midlo substitutes, Mr. Steve Gibson fills that role perfectly.  Mr. Gibson is a retired firefighter from Chesterfield Fire and EMS. When not at school, he enjoys spending time with his family and working on house projects. He has two children and four grandchildren. Both of his sons followed in his footsteps by becoming firefighters. One son is stationed in Richmond and the other in Chesterfield. Mr. Gibson was born and raised in Richmond, but moved back and forth between Central and Northern Virginia, throughout much of his childhood. He finished his 8th – 12th grade education in Chesterfield County before joining the military. While in the military, he served in the United States Coast Guard on a patrol boat station. After marrying his wife, Kathy, and having their first child, he decided to change careers. He served with Chesterfield Fire and EMS for twenty-five years before retiring.

What led you to make the choice to become a firefighter?

I got my start as a firefighter by serving seven years in the U.S Coast Guard. The first two years involved patrols on a cutter (ship) out of Virginia Beach, four years at a small boat station on a resort beach in North Carolina, then my final year on a patrol boat out of South Florida. I had some incredible experiences with a variety of responsibilities like fishery law enforcement, drug enforcement, immigration enforcement, boating safety inspections, and search and rescue. It was interesting and exciting stuff, but after marriage to Kathy and our first child, the life I enjoyed as a single man started to take too heavy a toll on the family. I soon began to think of other ways to do similar kinds of work. I was told about a career opportunity in my home town as a firefighter with the Chesterfield Fire Department (now Chesterfield Fire & EMS) from a friend of a friend. To me, it sounded like a perfect match. Without question, my most enjoyable years in the Coast Guard were at a small boat station, something very similar to a fire station, but responding with boats instead of fire apparatus.

What was a highlight of your career?

For me, a career highlight involves the highest purpose for being a firefighter, and that is the saving of lives. I had those opportunities, but I wasn’t alone, as no one in the fire service functions properly without being part of a team. Whether a medical emergency, vehicle collision, structural fire, or any number of traumas, it’s almost always a coordinated effort with others in the fight for the best outcome. There is a specific call etched in my mind, where I happened to be closest to a situation. It was horrible and graphic, and we prevented the loss of life. You generally only talk specifically about those kinds of incidents with select people who understand, and then only rarely, maybe never. It’s an odd thing, even reverential, for a career highlight to be the worst day of somebody’s life. But that’s the nature of that line of work.

 What firehouses did you work at during your career or where in Admin/ RMD?

Aside from training and administration, Chesterfield Fire & EMS has multiple stations and three 24 hour shifts: A, B, and C. You may be assigned to a fire engine (E) or a fire truck (T), and ambulances are in most stations. I started my career in 1985 with three days of intensive training and was sent to station E10-A shift as a rookie. Three months later, I went to drill school followed by assignment to E2-A, then E7-A, T3-A, E3-C, E4-C, E20-C, and I finished up at E19-C.

What was your favorite part of working in the fire service?

I think what I enjoyed most about my work in the fire service was being a paramedic, the highest level of pre-hospital training and certification recognized (EMT basic is still a requirement). That’s different from the majority of firefighters who preferred the fire side of the job, but I enjoyed the variety of EMS emergencies, the more technical nature of the work, and the opportunities to make positive improvements in people’s lives, even saving some.

 What was your favorite station/shift to be assigned to?

I was assigned to many different stations in the course of my 25 year career and spent the first half on A shift and the second on C shift. Each location was different: the communities served and dynamic among co-workers for 24 hour shifts, but I enjoyed every change, which is one of the inherent aspects of the fire service that I enjoyed. Every day was different and full of unknowns, and changing locations every few years with all of the adjustments required just kept the job that much more interesting for me.

What advice would you give a high schooler who would like to pursue a career in the fire service?

I would advise most high schoolers interested in a career in the fire service to get that college degree first. I know every situation is different, and not everybody will have that opportunity for one reason or another, but I think it would be important enough to pursue that first if you could swing it. A degree and the maturing you would obtain along the way would give you an edge in the competition among some others for the position. A degree was required for promotion when I retired, so the fire service does place value on it. That’s not to say the right person can’t make it in without college; it does happen. I would also say to be persistent. Many people apply to numerous fire/rescue departments, sometimes more than once to eventually get hired somewhere. If you can meet the qualifications for an interview, then that first impression is going to be extremely important. Study, read technical magazines, know as much as you reasonably can about the industry and why you want to be part of it before sitting before that panel.

After your career with CFEMS, what brought you to make the choice to become a substitute?

After retirement, I took a few years to renovate a couple of houses to sell, then I started substituting in middle schools and high schools all over the county to gain experience. After a time, I only subbed in high schools, then began subbing at Midlothian High School exclusively. Those years at Midlo have been the best! I’ve gotten to know students through all four years of high school. That is a big reason why I made the choice to begin subbing, and it has been very enjoyable. My experience with youth before subbing made that choice easy.

What is your favorite aspect of substituting?

My favorite aspect of substituting is having the chance to be a positive influence to students in some way. I must say I also enjoy having the complete freedom to sub only when I want to. I’ve been fortunate enough to pretty much make my own schedule, which for me still means being at Midlo [pre-COVID] every day with few exceptions.