By Elise Franco
When Andy Frost Jr. retires his post as fire chief in August he’ll be taking 46 years of experience and memories with him.
Frost, 68, said his choice to retire wasn’t an easy one, but he knew it was time.
“I’m at the age where I need to enjoy myself and my family,” he said. “I’m happy here at the department, but I want more time with my grandkids.”
Frost began his career with the Austintown Fire Department in 1966 as a part-time firefighter, and in 1980 he became the first full-time, nonmanagement employee in the department’s history. Five years later, in 1985, Frost was named fire chief.
He said his interest in the profession is something that continued to develop into his adult life.
“My best friend’s dad was a firefighter in Youngstown, so we spent a lot of time with him at the station,” Frost said. “I guess as Austintown Fire Department grew, my interest grew with it.”
Frost said he never thought about leaving Austintown save for a short time in 2007 when he was offered a position with the state fire marshal’s office.
“I ended up turning it down at the last minute. Moving to Columbus just wasn’t the right thing for me,” he said. “And I have no regrets. I’m glad I stayed in Austintown because this is my home, and I love this community.”
And the community seems to love Frost as well.
Colleagues, family and friends say he’s been an invaluable asset throughout his entire career, especially during his 27-year tenure as chief.
Ken Frost, Jackson Township police chief, said he’s always looked up to Frost, who is his older brother.
“He’s been there so long, and he never got stale in the job,” Ken Frost said. “He’s allowed the department to advance.”
Andy Frost III, Austintown assistant fire chief and Frost’s son, agreed with his uncle and described his father as a “bulldog.”
“He goes out and goes after what he wants, and that works for him,” he said. “He turned an all-volunteer department into a combination department, and it works unbelievably well.”
And though Frost is modest about his accomplishments, he proudly touts his efforts on a nearly $100 million highway project, completed in 2009.
Frost said when the Ohio Department of Transportation began plans to widen and reconstruct the Interstate 80 bridge over the Meander Reservoir, he approached ODOT leaders with ideas to make the area as safe as possible.
“We led Northeast Ohio in chemical spills because of how that bridge had been designed,” he said. “When it came time to rebuild, I went to ODOT and said they needed a collection process built in.”
Frost initially was met with resistance, but he said support from local politicians helped sway ODOT.
The $91.5 million widening and reconstruction project between the Ohio Turnpike and the state Route 11 interchange began in 2006 and was finished in 2009. The project included the reconstruction and replacement of the twin bridges over the reservoir. A waste run-off system also was incorporated into the design.
“It was such a big undertaking, and it went on for such a long time,” Frost said. “But the state now uses that bridge as a model for how these things should be done.”
Trustee David Ditzler credits Frost for the project’s success.
“He fought vehemently … it ultimately turned out that it was necessary,” Ditzler said. “If it wasn’t for those efforts, the bridge never would have happened that way.”
Frost’s son said many people don’t realize his father had such a hand in the project. “Most of the public, and even some co-workers, don’t understand what he did.”
Frost said he’s retiring happy, knowing he’s had a successful career, but he won’t be walking away completely.
Frost is a longtime member of the Canfield Fair Board where he coordinates fire, police and first-aid safety during the annual event. He’s also the public-safety services coordinator at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
He said he’ll continue to work in those positions for as long as he can.
The chief said the struggles and successes he’s experienced in his career are what made him into who he is today.
“Everybody has a point where they grow up, as responsibility comes down on your shoulders,” he said. “You have to crawl out from under it and realize you did have the strength to deal with it.”