Schenectady County

Dark past, brighter future for Schenectady firefighter

Vincent Krawiecki has come a long way in two decades.

Vincent Krawiecki has come a long way in two decades.

Twenty years ago, he was in federal court pleading guilty for dealing cocaine in what was described as the largest cocaine ring in the Lake George area.

Addicted to cocaine and with his professional life in ruins, he was sent to federal prison for two years.

That’s when things finally started to go right. Krawiecki got out of prison early for good behavior. He was allowed to train as a paramedic despite his drug conviction. Then Schenectady hired him as a firefighter, three years after he left prison, and he racked up honors and medals for crawling into heavy smoke and fire to find unconscious people. He won other commendations for doggedly applying CPR until heart attack victims came back from oblivion.

He was also one of many firefighters who worked search and rescue details at the World Trade Center after 9/11. He was given a field promotion to rescue team manager during the operation and won a departmental medal of merit for his work there.

It was that history that persuaded city officials to overlook his criminal past and promote him to deputy chief on Tuesday. Krawiecki has turned his life around, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said in explaining why the fire captain deserved to join the small pool of deputy chiefs, one of whom will likely become the next fire chief.

“He has made no issue over the fact that he made a mistake and exercised poor judgment,” Bennett said. “But look what a job he has done changing his life. He has dedicated his life to the fire department. It’s impressive. He was the most qualified candidate.”

Bennett added that he did not even consider Krawiecki’s distant past when reviewing him for the promotion.

“His potential for advancement is all based on what he has done since he was hired. I don’t think [his distant past] is relevant at all,” Bennett said.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton canceled Krawiecki’s promotion when it was first announced in July. He never gave a reason, but fire union President Alan Tygert said the mayor was wary of any promotions that involved candidates with drug histories. The other man, firefighter Michael Stanley, failed a departmental drug test five years ago but was slated to rise to lieutenant. Stratton canceled that promotion as well. For three months, the fire department used overtime to fill its vacant chief slot while officials waited for Stratton to promote someone else.

After at least one contentious meeting with fire officials, Stratton decided Tuesday to promote Krawiecki but not Stanley.

Instead, firefighters Joel Metz, Daniel Minersagen and William Rockenstyre were promoted to lieutenant. Fire Lt. Douglas Faulisi Jr. moved up to captain.

Faulisi was recently recognized for saving the life of Kelly Neal, then 15, when she was struck by lightning at the Saratoga County Fair on July 18. Faulisi, who was working the fair as a paramedic, raced to her side to find that she wasn’t breathing and her heart had stopped. CPR and a defibrillator brought her back.

Faulisi, Metz, Minersagen and Rockenstyre are also on the department’s hazmat team. But the officers who were promoted to lieutenant each have their own speciality as well as hazmat training. Metz is considered an expert on building construction, Minersagen teaches paramedic training and Rockenstyre is working on a bachelor’s in emergency management.

Categories: Schenectady County

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