Oldsmar Fire Rescue Lt. Aaron Gonzalez retires after 30 years with the city

Oldsmar Fire Rescue Lt. Aaron Gonzalez retired on Friday, Sept. 30 after 30 years of service to the city.

Oldsmar Fire Rescue Lt. Aaron Gonzalez retired on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 after 30 years of service to the city.

Oldsmar has many dedicated, longtime employees working for the city, and this week, dozens of people showed up at Fire Station 54 to say farewell to one of the most dedicated and longest tenured of them all.

Aaron Gonzalez, who started out cutting lawns for the city and worked his way up to become an invaluable and dependable lieutenant for the Oldsmar Fire Rescue department, retired on Friday after 30 years of service, and his sendoff was befitting someone of his caliber, both as a person and a professional.

Past and present coworkers and city officials, plus members of neighboring departments as well as many of Gonzalez’s friends and family came to mark the end of his three-decade tenure with the department at a ceremony that featured food, gifts, photos and more than a few tears.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis (L) and Fire Chief Dean O'Nale (r) flank retiring Lt. Aaron Gonzalez on Friday.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis (L) and Fire Chief Dean O’Nale (C) with retiring Lt. Aaron Gonzalez on Friday.

“Thirty years, it’s amazing,” Fire Chief Dean O’Nale said. “He started out as a volunteer mowing lawns, then moved up the ranks to become a paramedic, a lieutenant, and EMS coordinator and for the last few years, a training officer.”

“He’s got such a great work ethic, he was ready for an inspection we jokingly told him he had today,” he added. “You don’t replace a man like that. You just move on. But I’d love to have five more just like him.”

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis echoed the chief’s thoughts.

“This guy has risked his life for 30 years to keep people safe,” Bevis said.

“You don’t replace someone like that. You just count your blessings you had him on your team as long as we did.”

Gonzalez, known as much for his distinctive shaved head as for his smile and engaging personality, has been such a fixture with the department that he was one of the first two paramedics hired in the city.

Now, after 30 years of helping others, he said he is ready for the next chapter of his life to begin.

Aaron Gonzalez poses with former Oldsmar Fire Rescue coworkers on the day of his retirement.

Aaron Gonzalez poses with former Oldsmar Fire Rescue coworkers on the day of his retirement.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said of his final day on duty, which ended with an official retirement announcement that was broadcast to all 70 departments in the Pinellas County EMS system.

“I’ve enjoyed working with these guys and doing this job for so long, but now I’m ready to move on.”

When asked what he will miss most and least about the job, Gonzalez didn’t hesitate.

The marquee outside Oldsmar Fire Rescue station 52 honors retiring Lt. Aaron Gonzalez.

The marquee outside Oldsmar Fire Station 54 honors retiring Lt. Aaron Gonzalez.

“I’ll miss the people, the guys, the most,” he said. “And the thing I’ll miss the least is having to tell someone a loved one passed away, and taking the kid calls. Those are never easy.”

As for his plans for the future, the man who has rushed to the scene of so many emergencies said he plans to take things a bit slower in retirement.

“I’m going to travel with my wife in a RV and see the country, and my bucket list is to go to Alaska,” Gonzalez said. “Luckily, I’ve got a good financial advisor, so I plan on enjoying myself.”

One thing he doesn’t plan on doing is returning to public service.

“Mr. Seidel said I should consider running for office,” he said, referring to Oldsmar Vice Mayor Eric Seidel. “But I said I don’t know if I want to do that!”

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