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Les Rodwell leading 2015 Fantasy of Lights parade

Les RodwellLes Rodwell has gone from chairing the Howell chamber’s annual Fantasy of Lights parade to leading it as this year’s grand marshal. It’s an honor that recognizes the many hours he’s given as a tireless volunteer for this and many other community events, as well as his retirement earlier this year from the Howell Area Fire Department.

“I am very excited about being the Grand Marshal for 2015 Fantasy of Lights Parade,” Rodwell said. “I would like to give my thanks to the committee for bestowing this honor on me, from Fire Marshal to Grand Marshal. I am looking forward to celebrating this event for the community that I have supported.”

One of the reasons Rodwell retired was that it gave him and his wife, Diana, the opportunity to travel the country while she still practiced nursing.  At the current time they are both living in La Crosse, Wisc., were Diana is working in the Mayo Clinic ER.  Rodwell hopes that Diana will be able to ride with him on the Grand Marshal’s float, but that could change due to her work schedule, he said.

It’s been a long and storied career for Rodwell, a Howell High School grad, as he pursued his dream of becoming a police officer and firefighter, inspired in part by the television show “Adam 12” as well as a trip as an Eagle Scout to the Howell Fire Department.

He retired in March after serving 37 years with the Howell Area Fire Department, joining it in 1978.  In 1981 he graduated from the National Fire Academy at Lansing Community College and also earned his Associated Degree in Fire Science from L.C.C. in 1990.  He worked his way up the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant to assistant chief. He was honored as Howell’s Firefighter of the Year in 1988, and retired this year as the department’s deputy chief and fire marshal. He also served as a police officer with the Howell Police Department, honored as its Police Officer of the Year in 1985 and 1988; he also served as an officer with the Pinckney Police Department.

During his years as a firefighter and police officer, Rodwell’s seen it all, from murders to domestic violence calls to drunken-driving crashes to fatal fires and any number of other emergency situations. In addition to serving the public in emergency situations, Rodwell has found ways to serve the community in other ways.

Rodwell’s been president of the Michigan State Firemen’s Association, and he’s reviewed proposed legislation for the association’s Fire Service Coalition. He was also named the 2014 Fire Inspector of the Year through the Michigan Fire Inspectors Society.

“Les has been a tremendous help to the chamber and the entire community,” said Pat Convery, president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. “He works hard and cares deeply.”

And he’s been a familiar face at a host of community activities.

“At the chamber, we’ve been privileged to work closely with him at our special events such as the Livingston County Home & Garden Show, Michigan Challenge Balloonfest and Fantasy of Lights,” Convery said. “This year, he can just sit back at Fantasy of Lights and enjoy his trip along the parade route.”

The 32nd annual Fantasy of Lights is Friday, Nov. 27. The event is hosted by the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Activities begin at 4 p.m., followed by the Fantasy 5K at 6 and the start of the parade at 7. Major sponsor of the Fantasy of Lights is Cobb-Hall Insurance. Supporting sponsors are Citizens insurance and Blue Care Network of Michigan. Champion Automotive Group is the Fantasy 5K Platinum Sponsor.

For more on the Fantasy of Lights, contact Fantasy of Lights Director Michelle Tokan at mtokan@howell.org.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus contributed to this report.

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