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Bayshore chief gets great sendoff

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jun 30, 2021

Larry Nisbet had an emotional final day as Bayshore fire chief Teusday as he handed the keys to the station over to new chief Doug Underwood during a farewell luncheon at the fire station on Nalle Road.

Firefighters from throughout Southwest Florida, as well as friends and family, visited the station to bid farewell to the man who not only saved the district, but made it thrive under the most trying circumstances.

Nisbet served as chief for 13 years, arriving just in time to watch district funding collapse as the Great Recession pulverized housing valuations and so wrecked havoc on revenues based on property values.

Nisbet’s leadership brought the district back and, while many young volunteer firefighters got their feet wet at Bayshore and moved on, the core veterans stuck around, including Underwood, to take the ISO rating from a 4 to a 2 despite having one station.

Among them was Theresa Sharp, who Nisbet said is the nuts and bolts of the organization and who allowed him to sit in the fire chief’s seat.

“It’s sad to see him leaving. He’s done an awesome job and has helped so many people in so many ways,” Sharp said. “He’s upped the department, the neighboring districts. I tried to get him to hold off until I was done, but I couldn’t do it. I look forward to working with the new chief.”

One of the volunteer firefighters who went on to other agencies is Heather Mazurkiewicz, who was the Florida Volunteer Firefighter of the Year in 2017 and went on to become public information officer at the North Collier Fire and Rescue District.

She said his leadership has helped the careers of countless firefighters throughout Southwest Florida.

“It was his initiative and how he allowed his firefighters to be willing to train other firefighters. For me, they laid a foundation for the type of fire professional I wanted to be,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It’s a sad day to lose him, but he’s earned it.”

Among those to bid farewell was Greg Bueno, spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol, who also awarded Nisbet with a certificate of appreciation.

“We have leaned on him for advice and has been there when we had a need in our department regarding tragedies. He’s been one of the first who has been there for us,” Bueno said. “We remember things like that. Great working relationships, knowledge and resources.”

The brief ceremony included the handing over of the keys to Underwood, a going away present for Nisbet (a crossbow for hunting), and the final call from stations throughout the county, a moment that brought tears to his eyes.

Finally, Nisbet was given his final ride home on Bayshore’s engine just in time to beat the rain.

Nisbet said it was overwhelming the support he got from Bayshore and elsewhere.

“I was just doing my job, but it’s been a heck of a run. I don’t know how I’m going to do, but we’ll give this retirement thing a try and see how it goes,” Nisbet said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what Doug does.”