4 decades of public safety dedication retires

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From left, newly promoted Captain Justin Wietholter, Chief Rob Nader, newly promoted Assistant Chief Brian Valenti, and retiring Assistant Chief Brian Steffen listen as the Board of Commissioners praised Covington’s police department as “the best police force in Kentucky.”

Police, fire assistant chiefs praised as mentors

 COVINGTON, Ky. - In an evening filled with effusive praise and sincere gratitude, the City of Covington said “good-bye” Tuesday to two of its highest-ranking and longest-serving public safety officers.
Assistant Chiefs Brian Steffen and Chris Kiely are retiring, Steffen after more than 21 years with the Police Department and Kiely after 23 years with the Fire Department.
Before a Commission chambers filled with family, friends, and fellow police officers and firefighters, Steffen and Kiely were praised by their chiefs and by elected officials as mentors and dedicated servants who over the years had filled many roles within their departments.
The assistant chiefs then took the mic themselves to thank City officials, colleagues, the public and especially their families.
Chief Steffen
Steffen served in a variety of capacities in Covington’s department, including Bike Patrol, SWAT, Narcotics, and spokesman, Chief Rob Nader said, and he pushed the City to adopt new technology on numerous fronts.
“He was a mentor and role model to all the officers. He always showed professionalism and compassion, both inside the department and to the public,” Nader said. “He is going to be missed.”
Steffen praised Nader’s leadership and in his remarks gave individualized “thanks” to several categories of people, including command staff, elected and appointed City leadership, his fellow officers, the public, and especially his wife.
He said he was proud of the department’s positive relationship with the broader Covington community and said his philosophy as a cop has been to always try “to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.”
Like others, he lamented the impact of first responders’ careers on their families:
“We have a front-row seat to all forms of human tragedy,” Steffen said. “When we suffer, they suffer too.”
Chief Kiely
Kiely started in Covington in 1996 and was promoted to assistant chief of fire prevention and public education in 2006, over the years building the inspection bureau into a top-notch operation, Fire Chief Mark Pierce said.

The retirement of Assistant Fire Chief Chris Kiely “will leave a large gap in our institutional knowledge,” Chief Mark Pierce said.

“During his time with the department, he has always taken any opportunity to learn more and polish his craft,” Pierce said, citing the many, many certifications earned by Kiely, including as fire investigator and fire inspector. “His retirement will leave a large gap in our institutional knowledge.”
In his remarks, Kiely talked about balancing his dedication to his family and the department, especially during his early years with the difficult schedules that firefighters endure.
“There was a lot of time away from my family, but it’s a great career,” he said.
Police promotions
The City Commission also approved several promotions within the Police Department to fill command staff vacancies left by Steffen’s departure, as recommended by Chief Nader.
Captain Brian Valenti was named assistant chief. Valenti came to Covington as an officer in 1996 and is currently the Patrol Bureau commander and public information officer. He has a Master’s degree in executive leadership and organizational change and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Valenti told the Commission he was “ready to hit the ground running,” reiterated the impact on families of the “middle-of-the-night wake-ups,” and saluted Covington’s rank-and-file officers. “For us to be successful as a command staff, we have to have the support of officers who work with us,” he said.
To fill Valenti’s position as Captain, the Commission approved Nader’s recommended promotion of Lt. Justin Wietholter.
Wietholter began his career as a cadet in Covington in 2005 and served in Bike Patrol, SWAT and Narcotics. He also has a Master’s degree in executive leadership and organizational change and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He also is “a legacy,” with Wietholter’s father having been a Covington officer, Nader said.
Also Tuesday, Nader announced the retirement of detective Corey Warner, a 20-year officer who - like many recent retiring police officers and firefighters - cited the pending changes in the state’s pension system as the reason for his retirement.
Fire department arrivals
Also Tuesday, the Commission approved the hiring of nine firefighter recruits to fill vacancies caused by retirees: Michael Gullett, Terry Galliher, Kevin Davis, Brandon Padilla, Sara McPherson, Chase Autry, Ryan Ruberg, Tyler Sipes, and Peter Doherty.

Adorned in their dress uniforms (and standing in better lighting), Wietholter, Steffen, Nader, and Valenti pose after the meeting.

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