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The City Journals

Former city council UFA liaison Ziolkowski retires but with firefighting still in his future

Aug 12, 2020 02:54PM ● By Carl Fauver

At a city council meeting last fall, Assistant UFA Chief Jay Ziolkowski (R) honored four Taylorsville residents for helping to save the lives of two lightning strike victims. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Lost somewhere in the limbo that is coronavirus quarantine life, a 27-year veteran of the Unified Fire Authority has quietly stepped down as assistant chief. But the father of four and grandfather of two says he is not yet ready to sit in a rocking chair and whittle. 

“I have learned a lot during my UFA career and am very grateful to all those who helped me along the way,” Jay Ziolkowski said. “I think I could be a fire chief in another agency—probably one with fewer bosses, like one city manager or one mayor. My wife and I felt this was the right thing to do, to look at other opportunities.”

Indeed, before his retirement was even official, Ziolkowski was one of three finalists from among 28 applicants for the Orem City fire chief position. Although he was ultimately not selected, he remains confident other opportunities are on his professional horizon.

“That is a tough one for us, because Jay has been incredible for Taylorsville,” Mayor Kristie Overson said of Ziolkowski’s retirement. “He’s been a faithful member of the Exchange Club, has volunteered his time to so many city activities and is a genuine, all-around great guy. He had a rich experience with UFA. I applaud him for trying many different things [within the agency].”

Ziolkowski began his Unified Fire Authority career with what was then the Salt Lake County Fire Department, on April 1, 1993. As the county agency transformed into UFA in 2004, Jay remained on a career ladder that ultimately led him just one rung short of fire chief.

“I feel my niche is in administrative matters,” Ziolkowski said. “This is goodbye to Unified Fire but not to fire service.”  

In retirement, Ziolkowski will receive 64% of his UFA salary. However, if he takes another firefighter position in the state, that retirement income would be delayed—and he would add years of service to it—within a new agency. However, if he accepted a firefighting position outside Utah, he would be eligible to continue receiving the Utah retirement while also earning his new salary.

In other words, it will be no small financial sacrifice for Jay to remain in the field he loves and also here in the Beehive State. But despite that, he said he and his wife, Kristy, are here to stay.

“We are not really considering any out-of-state positions, because three of our four kids are here, along with our two grandkids,” he said. “Yes, I could make more money [in another state], but we want to stay here. It’s not about the money. I want to still contribute, so it’s time to see what the next chapter will bring.”