Sunday, June 20, 2021

Don't let his silence fool you

| June 4, 2021 1:00 AM

When elected officials don’t return phone calls from a reporter, it makes you wonder what they don’t want to talk about.

When Coeur d’Alene Fire Chief Kenny Gabriel doesn’t return calls from a reporter, you already know what he doesn’t want to talk about.


To be clear, if there’s a major fire or other emergency, Chief Gabriel can always be reached. But when seeking comment about an almost unprecedented award bestowed on him? Crickets.

That theory was verified by Chief’s wife, Wendy, when a somewhat frustrated Press reporter was repeatedly ignored last week by the man who was honored for his dedication, expertise and endurance as a firefighter and as a leader.

Plain and simple, Kenny loves to put a spotlight on other deserving souls. Emphasis on “other.”

So The Press went to press without any further enlightenment from the honoree, which we suppose doesn’t really matter. Since 1984, when he started as a volunteer firefighter, and 2000, when he rose to the rank of Chief, Kenny Gabriel has let his leadership do his talking.

Chief Gabriel, for those who might not know, is much, much more than a fire chief. Over the decades of service, he has built a department known for top-of-the-chart excellence. Cooperation between first responders throughout the region is superb, and nobody deserves more credit for that than Chief Gabriel. Not that you’d ever hear him suggest such a thing.

Another detail some of you might not know is how much Chief Gabriel cares for his community. He has developed relationships with people that transcend any duties of a fire chief. Strong, silent type, maybe, but when there’s a need, the towering figure of Chief Gabriel always seems to loom near.

All of these things were understood by the Idaho Fire Chiefs Association, which bestowed only the second Lifetime Achievement Award in its 52-year history on Kenny Gabriel.

This outstanding honor was all the more enjoyable because, unbeknownst to the recipient, his family was watching over his shoulder during his acceptance speech in Sun Valley. Wendy gathered the crew and surprised him by dropping in on the festivities via Zoom.

In a world overpopulated with inflated egos and self-aggrandizers, with those of big mouth and small brain, it’s a joy to know people who are so deeply immersed in the business of public service that you don’t even notice their astounding achievements until someone else points them out.

That’s you, Chief.

And now the entire community is looking over your shoulder, applauding.