Leonard Mikeska never thought the day would come, but on Wednesday morning, colleagues congregated to celebrate the three decades he has served as head of the Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 3, making him the longest-serving fire chief in the county.
“I never thought I’d be fire chief for 30 years.” Mikeska said shortly after walking into a surprise party held at the ESD No. 3 administration building on Honea Egypt Road.
Mikeska, 61, was named chief of the Lake Conroe Volunteer Fire Department on Oct. 1, 1991. In his time at the helm, Mikeska has overseen the department grow from a volunteer crew of around 20 or 30 firefighters to a full-time force of 60. The unincorporated north county district encompasses the area that lies between FM 2854 and Texas 105.
ESD No. 3 Assistant Fire Chief Keith Soliz, 38, started working under Mikeska as a junior firefighter at 16 before being hired full time in 2004. Soliz said Mikeska helped grow the department by adding staff and fire stations as the budget grew, inspiring neighboring fire departments to emulate the volunteer-to-full time model he implemented.
“They took what he was doing ’cause they saw it was working.” Soliz said. “He’s made the place a really good place to work for.”
Montgomery County Fire Marshal Jim Williams said that to his recollection there is no fire chief in the county that has served as long as Mikeska.
A state proclamation signed by state Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, lauded Miskeska’s work.
“Throughout his career, Leonard Mikeska has exemplified the highest ideals of his profession and contributed immeasurably to the safety and well-being of his fellow Texans,” the proclamation read in part.
But Mikeska pushes back on the praise.
“We’re here because of the taxpayers and everything we do is because of the taxpayers. It’s their fire department,” he said.
Mikeska credited the quality of personnel with easing his time and making it so meaningful.
“Really, this fire department ain’t about me. What’s made it a good ride for 30 years is, is all the good firefighters,” he said, pausing mid-sentence as he quietly choked up.
Among those firefighters is ESD No. 3 Lt. William Cassidy, 61, who joined the department about five years ago on account he would be working with Mikeska again. The two men worked at the Houston Fire Department’s Station 8 for nearly two decades before Mikeska retired there as district chief in 2017 after 36 years. The chief was charged with ESD No. 3 on the weekends.
“He has everybody’s safety in mind. He knows when it’s time to get out of a fire,” Cassidy said of Mikeska’s expertise.
Mikeska’s professionalism has been a draw for others too, as Montgomery County Emergency Services District Board President Greg Holcombe attested.
“One of the reasons I accepted the position as president on the board is because of his reputation,” Holcombe said of Mikeska.
Born in Houston and a Montgomery County resident since 1972, Mikeska joined the department at 16 as a junior firefighter. After graduating from Conroe High School, he married.
His wife, Rhonda Mikeska, was present during festivities honoring her husband. They have three sons.
Wesley Mikeska joined the department in 2003. The youngest, Brent Mikeska, 27, is a third-generation Houston Fire firefighter. The late Leonard Henry Mikeska Sr. was a deputy chief at the department for 27 years before retiring.
“My daddy, he was a Houston fireman,” Leonard Mikeska said. “That was all I ever wanted to be, was a fireman.”
Written by Jose R. Gonzalez