Our February Alumni Spotlight features a young man who served in many roles over his 19 years with the department, including his last few as an Assistant Chief. Jim Allen joined the WFD when it was still a private corporation and managed to survive along with the other thrill-seeking volunteers who rode the outside tailboards on the old trucks. He was a mentor and friend to so many and was an absolute joy to be around. We thank Jim for taking the time to share his story and wish him, his wife Renee’ and his extended family well! Enjoy! – Ladd Miller
I was born in Coral Gables (Dade County) Florida, in March of 1959. My father was in sales which brought my family to Georgia before I started elementary school.
Public service was instilled in me at an early age. My unofficial fire career started in the 5th Grade at East Rome Elementary when I was assigned to be the school’s Junior Fire Marshal. My responsibilities were to ensure all the classroom windows and doors were closed in case of a fire and during fire drills. To this day, I have the badge that I was given, and it is displayed with all of my other fire memorabilia. When I graduated to the 6th grade, I was promoted to the School Safety Patrol Team. As a thank you from the City of Rome, Georgia Police Department, all members of the City’s School Safety Patrol Team were given a train trip to tour Washington D. C.
My family then moved from northern Georgia to Minnesota, during the summer before starting 7th Grade. In Minnesota, I attended public school at Battle Creek Junior High, Harding High School, and then graduated in 1977 from Tartan Senior High, in Oakdale MN.
Over the years I have worn many hats both personally and professionally: Son, brother, husband, dad, coach, grandpa… My first job was working part-time at Byerly’s Food in Saint Paul, bagging groceries, and working in the produce department. That is where I met my wife Renée. We were married in 1979. We have three children and eight grandchildren. I served in the United States Army Reserve as a Military Police (MP) Officer, receiving an Honorable Discharge in 1986.
As a Registered Minnesota State High School Football Official, I was fortunate enough to work at two State Championship Games (Prep Bowl) held in the old Metro Dome. After moving to Wisconsin, I also became a Registered Football Official in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association while continuing with my “Friday Night HS Crew” in Minnesota. In this position I received the Pierce – St. Croix Officials Association “Football Official of the Year” for 2015 – 2016. I was a fill-in for Division II and III college football. My passion for officiating continued after I moved to South Dakota in 2021. Currently, I am a Registered Football Official in the South Dakota High School Activities. I also did a stint as a Town Clerk in Wisconsin.
My career with the Woodbury Fire Department began in September of 1985. In those days the Woodbury Fire Department was a private corporation, contracted by the City of Woodbury to provide Fire and BLS ambulance service. Woodbury only had the 2250 and 2260 Fire Stations. At that time the Woodbury Fire Department still had two firetrucks, where we stood on the back bumper / rear of the vehicle while responding to a call. All vehicles were lime green in color, not the current red. We got to experience the rain, snow, wind, blowing fire, sand, cold, etc., firsthand. It got your heart pumping!
I went through Firefighter I, Firefighter II and Firefighter III training and received my National Certification as an EMT in 1986. In September 1999, I was awarded the “We Help-Helpful Award” from the City of Woodbury. Along with Russ Hawkinson, Lee Vauge & Becky Swanson from the WDBY Police, we hosted a Public Safety Show on the local cable channel. That always got a lot of laughs from fellow firefighters on drill night, for all the humor we brought to the show! Did you know Benjamin Franklin was the first to organize a group of volunteers as a Fire Department in 1736?
I held many positions in Woodbury, including Fire Department Treasurer, Relief Association Board of Directors, Lieutenant, Captain, District Chief and Assistant Chief / Division Commander. I retired from the Woodbury Department of Public Safety in October 2004, after 19 years of service. Our children had grown, and we were “empty nesters”. Renée and I packed up and moved from Woodbury to a new home across the river in Wisconsin.
After 39 years of service with 3M Corp. and working through COVID, I retired. While at 3M, I was on the E-squad in addition to my regular duties as CRPL Facility Coordinator. Renée retired shortly after from South Washington County School District. In January 2021 we built our retirement home in South Dakota.
We both enjoyed raising our family in Woodbury and have many awesome memories of our experiences with the fire department! The feeling you get when someone comes up to you and tells you “Thank you” for saving their life, a loved one, or property is indescribable. My philosophy for conduct and actions at each call I responded to was: “I have been summoned to possibly the worst day of someone’s life and I was there to make it a little bit better.”
I appreciate all that the WFFAA does, and I thank ALL past WFD personnel for what you did in keeping Woodbury protected and safe for our families, friends, and businesses, while paving the way for the future of Woodbury Public Safety!
Jim Allen – 2204 Retired