'It's a business'

While the story of how Kelso ended up in Laurel is a bit unorthodox, how he became a firefighter is just as happenstance.

Unlike some volunteer rescue personnel, Kelso didn't grow up believing he was meant to serve. His first introduction to emergency response came in 1996 as a student at Syracuse University, where, as an information technology major, he needed to scratch a particular itch.

"I was originally interested in sports medicine and bioengineering, and I kind of went on a different path and fell into IT," Kelso said. "The reason I did my EMT was because I was still interested in the medicine aspect, and it kind of snowballed from there."

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Before long, Kelso was volunteering at DeWitt Fire Station just outside of the city limits and, upon graduation, faced the decision to pursue a career in IT or as a professional firefighter.

Ultimately, Kelso, who works for Dataprise Inc., in Rockville, chose to go into business, receiving his Master of Businesss Administration from Frostburg State University.

Kelso believes his education and business experience is something he can leverage for his daily duties as chief.

"I know very well, inside the station, or out on the fire ground, it is a business," Kelso said. "We provide fire protection and emergency services to the public."

Kelso described his leadership style as to that of a business manager — someone who gives people the power to do what they need to do.

"In order to be successful here, you need to listen to all sides of the story," he said. "My big thing is we all know history can repeat itself, and I'm not going to have us repeat the bad things that have happened in the past."

"He's very good at supporting people and patting them on the back," Lovell said. "And I 100 percent support him in every role possible."