By Lindy Keyser
Special to the Press
When Ronnie Tucker was appointed chief of the city’s volunteer fire department almost twenty years ago, there were zero paid employees and the department was equipped with little more than a brush truck and a budget of only $13,000.
"In ’96, the city took over and hired me as chief," Tucker said. "Now we have 21 paid employees, a budget of about $2.5 million and we man an engine and an ambulance 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
While many young boys aspire to a future of fighting fires, Tucker didn’t realize this dream until high school. The lifelong career that led him to his post behind a large desk at the local firehouse started with a softball game.
"There was an individual who came to Richardson High School looking for players to play on his commercial softball team and I was recruited," he said. "Some of the members of the team carried pagers and occasionally when they’d go off during a practice they’d have us tag along. I got hooked."
Tucker began his career as a firefighter in Richardson, Texas where he retired as chief after 35 years of service last year. Until then, he had been on double duty working full time for both Richardson and Prosper for nearly 20 years. He says his time on with both departments taught him first and foremost to roll with the changes.
"I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change over the years," he said. "I realized a long time ago that you have to take it and learn from it. The important thing is to properly manage the changes and adapt the best we can."
With Prosper’s rapid recent growth, Tucker and the department are considering new ways to contain emergencies within the community. He says that seven or eight departments are in the long-term plan for the city, with the first one slated to open in 2015.
"We need these additions because right now, our response time is too long," Tucker said. "There are some far edges on the west side of town that take 15 or 16 minutes to get to. That’s just too long."
Tucker says that while the majority of the projects he is working on right now won’t take effect until after his retirement, he is still very invested in their success.
"This is my family," he said. "This job is a calling and something that I’m dedicated to. Building this department will fulfill a lifelong dream and when I leave, I want it to be in very capable hands."
When Tucker does leave, he plans to do so in the most literal sense.
"My wife and I are going to play," he said. "We’re going to get into our RV and go all over. In the meantime, I enjoy watching these young firefighters and paramedics grow and blossom into future leaders of this department."