John Oprandy, Deputy Fire Chief, Albemarle County
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
Born in Warwick NY – raised there until I was almost 13 when we moved to Charlottesville where my raising was finished off.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
My father accepted a job with the City of Charlottesville Fire Department in the summer of 1983 and moved the family to Virginia.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Parkside Village in Crozet.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I graduated from James Madison University as a “non-traditional student” in 2000.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
I have a fantastic wife, Claudine and a wonderful daughter Lydia.
What were you doing before you came to work for the county?
I was a Firefighter Specialist with the City of Charlottesville where both my Dad and Brother worked. Once, for an hour or so, all three of us were assigned to the same engine company downtown. My Dad has since retired and my Brother now works for the City of Richmond (VA) fire department. I’m also a life member of the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department, so between my last year of High School and working for the county I spent a fair amount of time at the Crozet Fire Station.
Your job title is Deputy Fire Chief – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
As a Deputy Chief, I spend a lot of time working with a great team of people to ensure resources are in place and people are trained and ready to handle accidents and emergencies in a timely fashion. More importantly, I spend time working with our team reducing community risk in hopes of preventing emergencies from occurring in the first place. We accomplish this by reviewing building plans, educating school children, and inspecting businesses for fire and life safety hazards. Much of my time is spent on strategic planning, budgeting, leading people and projects, and facilitating change among all of the partners that make up our emergency services system in the region. Occasionally, I’m actually out helping on an emergency scene.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
Best part of my job? To know that I’m part of something that is making a difference in people’s lives and that the community is a safer and healthier place as a result of some of the programs and projects that I help make possible.
The most difficult part of my job is working with people, particularly through difficult change. Dialogue is imperfect, listening is important, and ideas need time to grow; these facts during a time in human existence when instant gratification and quick results seem to be the desire of most of us. Working collaboratively is tough, but can be very rewarding.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Interestingly enough, the average person may not have a direct need for public safety services on a regular basis; however, most will agree that knowing public safety services are there if needed provides a level of comfort on a daily basis. For those people who, day to day, have a direct need for fire or EMS services, there are a number of support people working behind the scenes to help get the first responder to the emergency and providing care; I’m one of those people behind the scenes.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the county?
One of the most interesting work experiences I’ve had occurred this past September when I traveled to the World War II memorial in Washington DC along with the Albemarle County Fire Rescue Honor Guard in support of a program called Honor Flight. Several hundred WWII veterans from the New England area were escorted by our Fire and EMS brothers & sisters to see the memorial for the first time. Our Honor Guard led the way during several processions for the veterans. Hearing the personal stories of a number of veterans, and participating in something that honored them in the way this program did, was something I’ll never forget.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I played the part of The Baker in Black Box Players production of Into The Woods in March of 2011.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I enjoy spending time with family, hiking, camping, cooking, fine dining, and travel.