WHITESVILLE — Matt Lively is filling some well-lived-in shoes. The 33-year-old Whitesville resident has been named the new chief of the Whitesville Volunteer Fire Department, effective immediately following the December retirement of Chief Jim Hodges, who held the position for four decades.
Lively, who grew up in the South Charleston area, has spent eight years working at the WVFD.
Lively has been involved with fire departments since becoming a junior fireman when he was 16. He received his EMT certification in high school and before he even turned 20, he was a paramedic. He has been with the Charleston Fire Department for 13 years and currently serves as a captain. He is a “swing” employee who fills in where he is needed throughout the Capital City.
Following Hodges’ retirement, Lively met the state requirements, applied for the chief’s position and was unanimously elected by the membership.
Additionally, Andrew White was promoted to assistant chief in Whitesville. White also serves as a fireman in Charleston and is a paramedic with 18 years of service in Whitesville.
Lively’s wife Lisa, a Sherman High graduate, is an EMT with two decades of service in Whitesville.
Lively said Hodges put down a good foundation upon which the department can to continue to grow.
“He really secured a good foundation as far as equipment and a base for structure in how we do things,” he said. “He was proactive regarding training and encouraged us to do training, and those things are absolutely essential.”
Lively said he will bring his own stamp to the Whitesville Volunteer Fire Department and that will revolve around community engagement.
“In this day and time, we have to be a community and family oriented department,” Lively said. “The people we serve are the faces of our department and we have to be neighbors helping neighbors. I believe we have to be the hub of the community and activities in the area should have us heavily involved in them. I want to create a family driven department and that his how you grow a department and push it into the future in a healthy way. There were things I missed out on as a teenager because I was dedicated to being a fireman, and I don’t regret it at all. I want that family culture to remain and grow in the firehouse.”
With a decline in volunteerism in general, Lively said, it is important for the department to reach future firefighters at a young age and expose them to what could be a career for them, providing that is their wish.
“We need to educate people on what all the fire department does and it isn’t all kicking in doors and crawling down hallways that are on fire,” he said. “That is a very small part of what a fire service does for a community.”
Lively also serves as a councilman for the Town of Whitesville.
“I’m very fortunate to have a schedule in Charleston that allows me to be able to do this,” he said. “I like to remain active and so does my family.”
Lively and his wife have three, daughters aged 8, 10 and 16.
“I think that my interest in the community and local government comes from my parents,” Lively said. “My brother is also a firefighter and we were always encouraged to get involved. We really try to instill that in our own children and family is always first with us. I really enjoy living and working in Whitesville. While I didn’t grow up there, it has always felt like home to me and that is because of the people.”