While elected officials come and go, Kirkland’s city employees often spend multiple decades serving the community.
City Council regularly honors these employees and recently, a fire inspector celebrated his 40th year working in Kirkland.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have long-standing people of such integrity working for the city and for the community, so we thank you,” Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen said.
Ed Ulrich, a former firefighter and current fire inspector for Kirkland, celebrated his 40-year milestone with the city on Oct. 28, 2017. Council held a service award recognition ceremony a meeting last month to recognize him and other city employees who achieved service milestones between July 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017.
“It is a very special night tonight,” said Kirkland human services director Jim Lopez, who presented the awards. “We do these two times per year and it’s for our employees who have served our city and our community 20 or more years, so it’s a great event.”
The full list of milestones can be found on the city’s website. Ulrich was the only employee honored at the Jan. 2 meeting, but the city plans to recognize others at future meetings as they’re available.
Ulrich received a standing ovation during the award ceremony and received applause and handshakes from each council member.
“I found (this job) to be very rewarding,” he said. “It was challenging physically. It was challenging intellectually (and) it was rewarding in that we were able to help an awful lot of people who were probably having the worst day of their lives.”
Firefighters often help locals deal with tragedy, but not every call is a disaster. Ulrich recalls an emergency birth in the 1980s during which he delivered the baby in the field before transporting mother and child to the hospital.
Ulrich was directing traffic at an accident scene about 18 years later when the same woman approached him and pointed out her son to him, who Ulrich helped deliver.
“It’s very moving, even today when I recall it,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich served as a Kirkland firefighter until 2015 when the physical toll became too much and he started his work as a fire inspector.
“The opportunity came up and I found that as I got older, it was taking longer and longer for me to recover and get rid of the aches and pains from having a very active and strenuous firefight,” he said. “What used to be something I could shake off after a day or two now seemed more like a week or two.”
According to deputy fire chief Helen Ahrens-Byington, Ulrich was an impactful addition to the fire department in his early days and demonstrated compassion and professionalism throughout his career.
As an emergency medical technician, Ulrich became a pioneer for the program in 1978, while the department was still deciding whether or not to provide emergency medical services. Ulrich demonstrated that firefighters could save lives by delivering an electrical shock to a cardiac arrest patient long before they’d arrive at a hospital.
Ulrich was also recognized during a 2012 City Council meeting for his 35th year of service, during which he received another standing ovation from council members and local attendees.
“Thank you for this recognition,” Ulrich said at the 2012 meeting. “It’s not often these days that people get to spend 35 years in the same career and it only happens because I’m extremely blessed and I have the greatest job in the world. With a little bit of luck and if my health holds out, I hope to do 40 (years).”
He did and Ulrich plans to continue serving the community as long as his health allows.
“I have seen the community go through some tremendous changes,” he said. “I’ve been richly blessed by having this career.”