Capt. Kenny Payne retiring after 30 years with fire department

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Capt. Kenny Payne had some things on his (fire) bucket list that he wanted to accomplish before retiring.
One of them was to design a flag for the Salisbury Fire Department.
The new flag flew outside Station No. 1 on East Innes Street for the first time Tuesday, which happened to be the final day of Payne’s 30 years with the department.
His fellow firefighters held a two-hour, drop-in retirement party in his honor and presented Payne with numerous items, including a shadow box of the department patch he designed, his own Fire Department flag and a worn football autographed by his friends in the department.
Payne and his men often liked to toss the old football in between calls, just for exercise and to relieve some of the tension, he said.
On his final day, Payne couldn’t help but think that his firefighting career had represented a good part of his life and how his co-workers in the department had always been a second family.
“You live and sleep it,” he said. “You get to know the kids, know everything about them. That’s what I’ll miss.”
Fire Chief Bob Parnell said the 52-year-old Payne “marked every firefighter to come through” and made them better through his experience and a great knack for telling a story รณ many of which held a lesson.
“His experience just shines through, and he shares it with everybody,” Parnell said.
Payne said he always enjoyed reporting for work and always liked the job. From the beginning, he wanted to be a fireman.
“The excitement, I guess,” he said. “That’s still in my blood.”
Payne spent a good portion of his time working out of Station 3 on West Innes Street, but his career touched all the stations.
When then Salisbury Fire Chief Fred Shipton hired Payne as a 22-year-old, the only real requirements were a high school education and a driver’s license, he said. The profession has changed dramatically since then through all the required certifications and training, Payne noted.
Payne’s wife, Cathy, actually accepted the job for him when Shipton called with the offer.
“It’s kind of her fault,” Payne said.
Before he joined the Salisbury Fire Department, Payne had been a volunteer with the Cleveland Fire Department for five years. Out of high school, he worked long enough at Carter Chair and Kern Rubber to know those weren’t jobs for him, especially compared to the fire service and the feeling he had whenever he heard a siren.
Payne has been with the Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department for 36 years and chief since 1994.
Cathy Payne, the town clerk in Cleveland, predicts her husband will spend a lot of his retirement at the Cleveland Fire Department, where he also has worked part-time. Kenny Payne said he’ll be doing things around their small farm in Cleveland, too.
The couple have two children, Chandee, a student at Lenoir-Rhyne College, and Casey, a West Rowan High senior who will be attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or