Covington Rescue Squad member Greg Burton was recognized during the regular October meeting of Covington City Council Tuesday evening.

Burton recently announced that he is retiring from the Covington Rescue Squad after 31 years of service.

Covington Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Chris Smith presided over Tuesday’s ceremony.

Smith opened the ceremony by stating that he was proud to recognize Burton.

Smith read from a letter of appreciation recognizing Burton for all he has done during his years of service.

While reading the letter, Smith highlighted all of the ranks that Burton attained during his tenure on the rescue squad.

Among those ranks, Burton was a 1st lieutenant, 2nd lieutenant, captain and president, among other roles that he took on in over three decades of service.

Burton also achieved high ranking positions on a statewide level — District Vice President of the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads being one of them.

At the conclusion of reading Burton’s appreciation letter, Smith said, “We all recognize the dedication that Greg Burton has shown to the Covington Volunteer Rescue Squad. We show our appreciation of 31 years of service.”

Covington Vice Mayor David Crosier asked Burton if his 31 years represented the longest active tenure within the rescue squad.

“I looked back and the last person I could remember that served more than that [31 years] was Howard Morris — Mr. Howard served 44 years. Unless there is someone older than Mr. Howard,” Burton replied.

Burton then gave his own remarks during the ceremony.

“It’s never been singular, we’re a small community here and it’s taken lots and lots of people to get the job done,” Burton said while fighting back tears.

Burton then recognized City Clerk Becky Scott during his remarks. He credited her with being able to relate with what it takes to be a member of the rescue squad, as she was a member in the past.

Burton also mentioned how he and Mike Wickline would listen to calls at the old Hardees location on Monroe Avenue.

Burton said of the success of the rescue squad, “The rescue squad has seen a lot of people come and go; it’s taken a lot of people.”

He continued, “I put my heart into it. I think I made a lot of differences for a lot of people. I still have my heart in it.”

Burton stated that while he’s retiring from active service, he would still be around the rescue squad serving in a mentor/advisor- type role.

“I’m still in the fire department; service is in my heart,” Burton also stated on how he will stay in the service field.

According to Burton, he had so much love for being involved with the rescue squad, that he had no idea the concept of retirement would come his way.

He mentioned that his daughter, Kayla Pauley, who was in attendance Tuesday, would pick up where he left off. He also stated that he is still recruiting potential new members for the rescue squad.

“I was actively recruiting at work today,” he said.

Burton then focused on the best time to participate in the volunteer rescue squad.

“The time to get in is when you’re young, when you can rip and run, and do what you want to do,” he said.

He continued, “That’s what has happened in our organization over the years. They get in when they can. Then life changes, you get married, have kids, they go to school, kids have ball games and whatever else they have. Life goes on and you get older, then it’s time for someone else to come in behind you. I’m trying to actively make that happen.”

Burton then stated that he maintains his strong belief in the rescue squad.

“I believe in our rescue squad. As a volunteer, I will always advocate for our volunteers,” Burton said, acknowledging and understanding that the rescue squad here locally is now gearing toward more of a paid personnel direction.

“As long as we have people here that are willing to volunteer, I will advocate for them. I think you guys [city council] realize that volunteers are always needed and will always be needed. No matter the service that you provide, the volunteers will always have a place. I’ll make sure of that as long as I’m able,” Burton emphasized.

Burton concluded by stating that it was never about the accolades, nor was it ever about him. He thanked everyone for allowing him to serve.

The following agenda items were also addressed and approved Tuesday evening:

— Council made two appointments to the Covington Planning Commission: Robert P. Scruggs was reappointed and Steve Wilson was newly appointed over Kaitlynn Cook by a 3-2 vote (District 2 Councilman Allan Tucker, Covington Mayor Tom Sibold and Crosier voted for Wilson; District 1

Councilman Eddie Joe Entsminger and District 3 Councilman Raymond Hunter voted for Cook);

— Adoption of Ordinance O-20-10 Amending and Re-enacting certain sections of Chapter 8, Buildings, of the code of the city of Covington;

— Adoption of Ordinance O-20-11 Amending and Re-enacting certain sections of Chapter 46, Utilities, of the code of the city of Covington;

— Adoption of Ordinance O-20-12 Amending and Re-enacting certain sections of Chapter 18, Environment, of the code of the city of Covington;

— Resolution R-20-34 regarding carryover funds from the Wastewater Budget for professional services as part of the Department of Environmental Quality Compliance for Consent Order.

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Covington City Council recognized retiring Covington Rescue Squad member Greg Burton during Tuesday’s meeting. Pictured is the Burton family, from left, daughter Kayla Pauley; daughter Allyson, holding Bryson; Chris Spraker, holding Brody; Burton and Fran, his wife. Burton served 31 years on the Covington Rescue Squad. (Jerome Johnson Photo)