Plainfield Chief Joel Thacker named Indiana State Fire Marshal
By Stephanie Dolan
Since high school, Joel Thacker’s trajectory led him to serve others working in emergency response services.
A career placement test as a teen pointed him in the direction of public safety, and now the current Plainfield fire chief is set to lead firefighters across the state. On March 4 Gov. Eric Holcomb named Thacker as the new Indiana State Fire Marshal, effective April 6.
In his new role, Thacker will support emergency responders and their organizations across the state. He will lead fire and building safety, individuals who investigate fires and enforce building and safety codes.
“I know that my experience and education will immediately help me step into the role and help me support the individuals who work there right now, but I certainly want to evaluate the division before I make any changes,” Thacker said. “I just think I’m excited to work with the homeland security director and other individuals in state government to increase public safety statewide.”
Plainfield Fire Territory Chief since 2017, Thacker, 46, began working in Plainfield in 2015 as division chief of fire prevention and administration.
He and his wife Julie moved to Plainfield from Greenwood six years ago. She serves as principal at Central Elementary in Plainfield. Married for 18 years, they have two children, Elaina, 26 and Aidan, 15.
As a teen Thacker served as a cadet with the White River Township Fire Department and an explorer with the Johnson County Sheriff Department.
“I enjoyed both, but there were more opportunities serving as a cadet,” he said. “When I graduated from high school I served part time with White River. I fell in love with emergency medical services, and it continued to grow from there.”
Thacker graduated from Center Grove High School and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in criminal justice and public safety. He felt more prepared for his first job with a fire department because of his time as a cadet in high school.
“The difference was I was the one making the decisions, whether it was a fire or medical emergency,” he said.
Early in his career Thacker worked part time for White River and Myers Ambulance Service before taking a job at the former Wishard Memorial Hospital as an EMT.
“While working at Wishard I completed my paramedic training in December of 1995, and in 1997, I started working as a firefighter/paramedic for Brownsburg Fire Territory,” he said.
Thacker worked in Brownsburg until his home station in White River Township began hiring full time firefighters. Up to that point, through every move to any new job, he maintained a part-time status at White River.
“I was working 12 or 24 hours in my full time job, then I’d get off and work 12 hours at my part-time job,” he said. “Public safety workers typically work a lot of hours. We usually have full- and part-time jobs. We’re a very dedicated group of individuals. We love caring for people and making a difference.”
Thacker learned a lot during his five years in Plainfield.
“I really like how we can all work together,” he said. “I came in knowing that I didn’t just want to be the individual that the council or manager came to about fire safety, I wanted to be part of the administrative team. That’s one of the things I’m proud of. The town is very blessed to have the people it does and in the positions they have. Plainfield is blessed to have that, and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
Plainfield Town Manager Andrew Klinger and Thacker started in their leadership positions at about the same time.
“It’s been a pleasure building up the leadership of the town and the Plainfield Fire Territory alongside him,” Klinger said. “Joel really has elevated the chief of Plainfield Fire position, and I believe the reason Gov. Holcomb appointed him is because he is one of the most qualified chiefs in the state.”
During his time as chief, Thacker worked to improve communication between the fire department and town administration.
“The town has provided us with great facilities and equipment,” he said. “We have grown the organization to meet the needs of the growing community. We’ve done that collectively as an organization.”
Thacker knows he will miss the people he’s worked with over the years.
“The fire chief is the leader of the organization that supports the men and women that go out and help people every day,” he said. “I can’t express how grateful I am to the men and women of the Plainfield Fire Territory. It’s been an honor to serve with them for the last five years. We’ll continue to live in Plainfield, and I want to continue to help Plainfield in any way that I can. We’re pleased to remain a part of this wonderful community.”
Holcomb chose Thacker based on the nearly three decades of service on his resume.
“Chief Thacker has risen through the ranks to bring 28 years of fire and emergency response experience to the position of Indiana fire marshal,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement. “In his new role, he will continue to grow relationships with our state’s first responders and increase public safety for all Hoosiers.”
Thacker will take his experience in Plainfield with him into state government.
“I am grateful for all the support, guidance and encouragement from the entire Plainfield Fire Territory and from the leaders of this town,” he said.
Do you enjoy traveling? We do. We’re taking a cruise over spring break.
Do you have pets? We have a Maltese named Hank.
What are you currently reading? I love to read. Currently I’m reading “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon.
What’s your favorite TV show? “Aerial America” on the Smithsonian Channel
What’s your favorite movie? “The Shawshank Redemption,” I also like the “Star Wars” series.
Who or what inspires you? My wife inspires me as a woman in leadership, and the men and women of emergency services and public safety continue to inspire me. I met Julie through mutual friends. Julie was a school teacher in Center Grove. One of my friends’ wives introduced us. I was smitten right away. We dated for a few years before we got married in 2001.