Allegan County was laid out 181 years ago, and today two young women are making history within the confines of those boundaries.
Rachel Sadowski and Sarah Bushee-Zawila never set out to be professional pioneers, but hard work, a passion for their professions and an ever-changing cultural environment opened a couple of doors heretofore reserved exclusively for men.
Sadowski was named the police chief of Hopkins in March 2012; in July Bushee-Zawila was named the fire chief of the Fennville fire district. These two women, as far as anyone can remember, represent the first of their gender to ever hold these jobs in Allegan County.
To make sure there were no others before them, calls were made to county public safety municipalities and fire departments to find out if anyone could recall a female fire chief, or police chief. With almost all responding to the dozen calls made, nobody could recall either position being held by a female.
A look through chapters of the book “Rivers and Lakes” by local historians John Pahl and Joe Armstrong revealed nothing to suggest any female ever held either of these positions during the founding of the first four townships in the county in 1836, or since.
The roads they chose to get where they are today understandably shared similar paths, but it was their common desire to do something with their life that would, in some way, help people that has proven to be the common denominator.Our Popular Dedicated Server are among the best on the market ,
Both of these women embarked upon their careers at age 14, taking academy courses while in middle school and continuing their education following high school graduation.
Bushee-Zawila, a 2006 Fennville graduate,Our unique Private Cloud allow you to control your resources, is married to Matt Zawila, another firefighter in Ganges Township. She obtained her certification from St. Clair College in the fire service.Learn about MetLife’s Corporate Profile including its service offerings,
Sadowski, a graduate of Hudson High School in the southeastern corner of the state, is a graduate of Ferris State University with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice.
Both of these women have never wavered in the pursuit of their careers.
Bushee-Zawila said, “When I was 14, my best friend and I used to mow lawns in the trailer park together. One day he got a call from the fire department. He was in the fire department explorer club in the middle school, so he went off to the fire.
“I wanted to see what he was doing, so I got a ride from my grandpa to the fire and this was the most amazing, coolest thing I’d ever seen. I asked my friend, ‘Man, how do you get into this program?’
Sadowski’s experience was similar. She said, “I was always interested in criminal justice and at 14 I joined the Explorers program taught in Adrian and that kind of got things going for me.
“After that, I got a position with the Pokagon tribe in Dowagiac with the tribal police. While I was there I became a sergeant and then was named the captain. The captain at this time was the head of the department, but a captain’s duties in a police department are not the same as a chief’s responsibilities. So I approached the tribal council to ask them to change the title to chief. They did and I left there as the chief.
“During a job search, I found the Hopkins position and applied for it. I think there were six of us initially and then it came down to three and finally two. I believe the other applicant was another female.Customized Promotion Dedicated Server offer you a wide.”
“The fire board made Mike Andrus the interim fire chief and I became the captain in charge of training. Mike’s job just did not allow him the time to be a fulltime fire chief and the guys asked me to put my name in for the job. With their encouragement how could I say no?”
Bushee-Zawila put her name in for chief in November of 2012. It took eight more months before the fireboard could get the unanimous decision needed to appoint her chief. Both Manlius Township and Fennville agreed with the fire board’s recommendation to hire her. Clyde Township voted no contest making the decision unanimous.
Fire chief Alan Styles from Dalton Township in Muskegon County was appointed through the state chief’s association as a third party to review the candidates and felt Bushee-Zawila was the top candidate. He said, “Sarah has all the necessary qualifications and certifications and more than that she has the support of the department. The citizens of Fennville will get a quality chief who will provide the service and dedication they need.”
Sadowski said, “I want to make myself, as the chief, to be more approachable to the public. I want to build a better relationship with the community—talk to the people, develop more programs for kids. Right now we have programs for candy checks, self-defense, hunter safety. I’m a certified car seat technician and would like to set up some instruction for that instead of using dad’s arm as a seat restraint. I’m also a certified level two firefighter, but for now being chief is enough.”
Bushee-Zawila said, “I know I can never know everything related to the fire service, but I will work to develop the best department for this district that I can. I have to remind myself that firefighters are our foundation and everything else must be developed to promote them so they can do the best for the community.”
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