Swan Lake, NY – Joe Mall understands that, as Public Safety Commissioner Scott Schulte says, “he’s got big shoes to fill.”
What Mall may or may not know, however, is that both Schulte and Deputy Commissioner John Hauschild think he’s already doing “a really amazing job.”
And since Hauschild is that aforementioned guy with the “big shoes,” Mall can rest assured he’s already made his predecessor proud.
“I’ve known Joe his entire life, and I’m beyond pleased that he’s taken over my former role as Sullivan County’s Emergency Services Training Coordinator,” affirms Hauschild. “Having watched him evolve and mature as both a volunteer firefighter and a hardworking heavy equipment operator, I know Joe is the right guy to take our Emergency Services Training Center to the next level.”
Mall, in fact, serves with Hauschild in Jeffersonville’s fire department, where Mall is just a few months away from becoming chief.
“I’ve served in all the other positions, from dinner committee chairman to president of the fire company,” Mall relates of a nearly 25-year tenure as a committed volunteer. “A friend of mine recruited my brother and I to join in November 1998, shortly after I graduated from Jeff-Youngsville [now Sullivan West].”
While he admits the adrenaline kick is addictive, it’s the camaraderie and teamwork that keeps him involved.
“It’s always amazed me how these firefighters come from all walks of life, drop everything to come running to a call, and somehow make sure everything gets handled,” he observes.
Credit that professional response to some professional training – which Mall himself has undergone many times.
“I’ve taken 30-40 classes over the years,” says Mall.
Now he oversees that training at the Emergency Services Training Center in Swan Lake. The unadorned, sheet-metal-clad structure sits in the shadow of the County Airport and serves not only as a training center but as the headquarters of the Division of Public Safety – and as the County’s nerve center during emergencies. Mall is responsible for ensuring the building and the equipment within are ready at all times.
“I’ve come here as a student and always been impressed by how organized it is,” he nods. “In a way, I’ve been training for this for 25 years.”
Mall doesn’t just mean his volunteer experience. He started his career working in his father Lee’s plumbing and heating business, gaining invaluable experience about building maintenance and equipment operation. He joined the Town of Callicoon Highway Department in 1999, then moved on to the County’s Division of Public Works, running heavy machinery. He also drove tractor-trailers cross-country – even owning one – and then purchased an excavator to work more locally around his hometown of Jeffersonville.
“These days, I’m coaching football three nights a week, so I’m lucky if I have time to mow my lawn!” he laughs.
Chalk that up to having two children – 9-year-old Lily and 6-year-old Wyatt – with fiancée Valerie Panich, who herself coaches Lily’s soccer team. Add in a dog and a cat, and it’s a busy family.
“We do try to camp a lot, and I’m a beekeeper when I have the time,” he adds.
But since August 28, a key focus has been his new role with the County.
“I’m scheduling the trainings and coordinating with emergency services agencies, requesting classes that they feel are needed,” Mall explains. “I’m also coordinating the upkeep of the facility and its assets, including its various vehicles, which we start and run once a week to make sure they’re ready to go out on a moment’s notice.”
His coworkers have given him a warm welcome, too.
“Everybody’s been great,” Mall says. “I couldn’t ask for a better environment.”
Schulte replies that he couldn’t ask for a better addition to the staff.
“First of all, he’s a hometown boy, which is great. That means he’s got the connections to foster and improve relationships with everyone we serve,” Schulte notes. “Plus he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to maintain the facility.”
Mall also possesses a lot of enthusiasm for emergency services, and he hopes to continue Hauschild’s legacy of promoting the Training Center as the valuable resource it’s meant to be.
“The training for being a volunteer firefighter is not an intimidating commitment after you see and experience what we have to offer,” Mall explains. “In fact, it prepares you for many other things in life, as well.”