TREMONTON – By Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist – August 9, 2021
There is an old saying that states, “Leadership is not a position or title, it is action and example.”
In his many years working as a firefighter, both at Thiokol (now Northrop Grumman) and for the city of Tremonton, Steve Batis was the epitome of that saying.
Saturday, July 31, Batis was honored at a gathering held at Skyway Golf and Country Club, where friends and family applauded his 40 years in public service. See photos of that event below.
As an assistant chief at the Promontory plant and as a member of the Tremonton City Fire Department, as well as 16 years spent as its chief, Batis was always focused on service, improvement and taking care of the community he loved, his co-workers say. That example of leadership was not wasted on those who had the privilege of working side by side with him.
Jim Hess, who retired as a Tremonton firefighter in December 2020, said, “Steve was already on the (Tremonton) department when I joined 26 years ago. But my association goes back further than that. When I was at Thiokol, he was my assistant chief. So, although we worked side by side here, he always had leadership over me.”
Hess said that position of leadership was never used to bully, laud or intimidate, however.
“Everything was about making sure we were responsible and ready to take care of our community,” Hess noted. “His main focus was about what we needed to do to improve to make us better responders and be the best that we could be.”
Hess remembers Batis asking him to organize a recruit academy, having him teach certification to the public to interest more people in joining the fire department. “He just told me what his expectation was then turned it over to me and let me take care of it.”
Another Tremonton firefighter, Mike Allen, has his own memories of working with Batis.
“Steve and I practically grew up together. He was my scout patrol leader, so we often met at his house. We went on camping trips together. I think he joined the department the year before I did and I will be here 40 years in December.”
Even back in those scouting days, Allen said, Batis took his leadership responsibilities seriously. “If we got out of hand, he would bring us back to where we were supposed to be,” he said. “He kept us in order and organized.”
Allen said those same skills showed up when he took charge of the department. “He was a good chief, a good leader. Whether it was on the ambulance or on a fire, he was right there to help out when needed and mentor. He was always watching out for us.”
One incident stands out vividly to Allen. After an earthquake make the old McKinley School-turned senior center unsafe, Tremonton fire crews were joined by outside departments to burn the old building down. Allen said everyone was assigned a task in typical Batis fashion – everyone but him.
“I was never picked to go anywhere,” Allen recalled. “Then Steve said, ‘Just stick with me and follow me around.’ We went into the building and were looking around in the gym when someone came on the radio and asked when we were going to start the building on fire. Steve just said, ‘As soon as Mike gets the drift torch.’ Then he turned to me and said, ‘You are going to light the school on fire.’”
Allen said that meant a lot to him. He had been the last six grade class to graduate from the school before it was closed.
“That was something special that he had me do, special that he gave me that honor,” Allen said.
Like Hess, Allen felt support from his chief whenever it came to assignments.
“I’m fire investigator for the department and Steve was always in favor of me going and learning new skills. It was always his purpose for us to come back and teach the rest of the department.”
Equally important was making sure his men had the right equipment to do their job, whatever that job might be, and do it safely.
“Safety was a big thing. Other departments ask why we have such good equipment. It’s because he took care of us, made sure we did. That is why our department has all the equipment we need.”
Hess agreed. He said he has had the opportunity to work with many good fire chiefs in his years with the department and counts Batis as one of them.
Safety was always stressed and always followed, he noted. “It was about us moving forward and improving. I know that when we went out on an incident we didn’t have to worry when Steve was in charge. He took his job and our jobs very seriously. Safety measures were always in place. Things were always taken care of.”
Photos by John Hurley