Kriger named Crockery Township fire chief

Becky Vargo • Jul 11, 2018 at 10:00 AM

NUNICA — Longtime Deputy Fire Chief John Kriger Jr. has officially become chief of Crockery Township’s fire department.

Capt. Kyle Botbyl will take over as the department’s deputy chief. 

The Crockery Township Board made the appointment of Kriger as chief at its Tuesday night meeting.

Kriger has been acting fire chief since the township parted ways with Gary Dreyer in September 2017. Dreyer had been Crockery Township’s fire chief since 2004.

Township Supervisor Leon Stille said officials waited this long to make the decision before a new chief took over so they could take care of all loose ends regarding Dreyer’s departure. Stille said that Dreyer disputed his severance pay, but the two sides have since settled.

The township had declined to comment on reasons for Dreyer’s departure at the time, other than the township wanted to go in a different direction with its fire department.

Kriger, 51, a lifelong Nunica resident, has served on the Crockery Township Fire Department for 34 years.

Stille said Kriger’s selection was an easy decision.

“John has just an abundance of firefighting knowledge,” the township supervisor said. “He has been a full-time firefighter for Muskegon Heights for years.”

Stille said that Kriger has also done a good job leading the department since last fall.

“I don’t think we could find anybody better-suited,” Stille said. “He’s contributed many, many hours to the department.”

Stille said he could almost duplicate that statement for Botbyl, 36, who has been with the department for 19 years. “We’re just very fortunate to have both of those guys to step up and take both of these positions for our department,” he said.

The fire chief position is part time, Stille said. Kriger’s schedule of a few days on and a few days off with the Muskegon Fire Department allows him to spend the time needed on the Crockery Township job.

The township fire chief receives a salary of about $500 a month to cover some of his leadership duties, such as attending board meetings. Kriger will also receive an hourly rate for response to any calls. All other fire officers and firefighters receive an hourly rate.

Also promoted during the meeting were captains Jeff Hughes and Jeremy Statler, and lieutenants Jessie Baxter, Tyler Kriger and Erik Erhorn.

Current Lt. Mike Killebrew is stepping back for personal reasons, but will remain with the department as a firefighter specialist, Kriger said. Killebrew said he is fully supportive of the new selection of officers.

The board also accepted, “with regret,” the resignation of longtime firefighter Dan Zalsman, who served on the department since 1992.

Kriger’s wife, Michelle, and his parents, John Sr. and Sandy Kriger, said they are proud of the new fire chief. The elder Kriger noted that three of John Jr.’s sons also serve on the department.

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