INDIAN SHORES — In the age of COVID it becomes necessary to forego the usual festivities associated with honoring a long-term employee’s retirement — but not the sentiment. After 24 years of service with the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District , Marshall Eiss, fire inspector for the Town of Indian Shores, retired on Sept. 18.
The town presented Eiss with an engraved vintage ham radio microphone at a socially distanced and masked ceremony in Town Hall on Sept. 18 and he was honored again at the Oct. 13 virtual town hall meeting. Pinellas Suncoast fire inspector Robert Hill, Assistant Fire Chief John Mortellite, Fire Chief Mike Burton, Indian Shores Mayor Patrick Soranno, Police Chief Rick Swann, district fire commissioner Larry Schear, and Police Capt. Glen Smith were all present at the original ceremony to wish Eiss well in his retirement. A reception and open house would have to wait.
While still a high school student, Eiss started his career in emergency medical service and rescue with the Union County Emergency Squad in 1971 in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. After working with several other organizations and relocating to Florida, Eiss became a volunteer firefighter/EMT in 1996 with the Indian Rocks Volunteer Firemen’s Association, a part of the Indian Rocks Fire Department. In 2001 he became part of the staff of the Pinellas Suncoast district as the maintenance man. By 2005, he advanced to the position of fire inspector and staff liaison for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
“Marshall Eiss wore many hats, but his best hat was as ambassador in the community,” Burton said. “Not everyone (in Indian Shores) knows me, but everyone knows Marshall.”
Eiss’ responsibilities with the Life Safety Division included performing annual fire safety inspections for commercial and residential structures that sometimes resulted in issuing fire violations that were going to cost owners to fix. Even so, Eiss would remind the owner that the fix would “save a life.”
In a recent interview Eiss expressed his thankfulness. “It has been a real pleasure to serve the folks of Indian Shores and I have appreciated the support and friendships I have made while serving them.”
Hill will be taking over the reins from Eiss now that he is retired. According to Burton, Hill has been with the Pinellas Suncoast district for 14 years, the last seven as a full-time employee.
Indian Shores Town Administrator Bonnie Dhonau said that Hill is known as “the fireman in the pink kilt” for the garb he wears during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and related fundraising. What Hill is best known for, though, is his work spearheading the procurement of the 9-11 Monument and Memorial Fountain in front of Fire Station #27 in Indian Rocks Beach.
Beginning with 9/11 memorials, the fall is the time of year that firefighters are customarily recognized for their contribution to the communities and the country.
The Town of Indian Shores honored fallen firefighters on Oct. 4 by lowering all flags to half-staff. Soranno sent out an e-message to town residents in advance of the date, so that the townspeople could participate with their own flags if they wished.
“Barbara and I understand first-hand,” said Soranno. In 2016 the mayor and his wife fled from their condo as it burned to the ground.
“Firefighters put their lives on the line for people,” said the mayor. “How do you show proper gratitude for that?”