By Cathy Myers
Karen Utley uses her education background to coordinate Washington Township Avon Fire Department’s fire safety efforts
Avon native Karen Utley serves Hendricks County as the director of public education for Washington Township Avon Fire Department, where she has worked since 2013. She pairs her background in elementary education with her desire to keep kids safe and a passion for fitness.
Utley works alongside the fire marshal to manage the Youth Firesetting Program that addresses at-risk youths to control fire-setting or fire-play behaviors. She manages the fire department’s social media accounts and website and also works as the Project Lifesaver Hendricks County coordinator.
At the department she leads the Preschool Risk Watch program and has certifications as a Child Passenger Safety technician and American Heart Association CPR instructor and works as an ACE group fitness instructor. She also has group fitness instructor certifications in Insanity, TurboKick and PiYo.
Prior to joining the department, she taught first grade for a decade at Pine Tree Elementary in Avon and graduated from the University of Indianapolis in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. For almost seven years, Utley has also led an online health and wellness business called Team Inspire the Fire.
With Fire Prevention Week running Oct. 4-10, the ICON honors fire department employees and named Utley as the October ICON of the Month for her efforts educating youth about fire safety.
What do you consider your greatest virtue? I like to think that I treat people the way that I would want to be treated.
What do you most deplore in others? I truly have a hard time with those that are not open to change and personal growth. There is a lot to be said about someone who is “stuck in their ways.”
What do you like most about living in Hendricks County? My favorite part of Hendricks County is the access to just about everything. I’ve grown up living in Avon, moved to the south side [of indianapolis] for college and back to Avon. I feel safe here, the schools are great and overall, I enjoy the quality of life that Hendricks County has to offer.
If you had to live elsewhere than in Hendricks County, where would it be? I have a house on the beach in Florida on my vision board.
If you could begin life over, what would you change? If I could start life over, I think I would dig into personal development books and podcasts at a much earlier age. The power of fueling your mind with positivity on a daily basis is truly life changing.
If money were no issue, how would you spend it? I have a strong obsession with workout attire, tropical vacations, craft cocktails and chef-inspired meals. I know for a fact that I would have no problem spending my money on those material items. But, I also know that I’ve always wanted to have enough money to make an impact at an organization that is trying to live out a mission that I align with. I’d love to make a donation to a program that is making a difference.
What makes you happiest? Spending time with my family, preferably on a beach with a cocktail and Jimmy Buffet in the background.
What is your favorite vacation spot? Anywhere tropical. My favorite style of vacation is cruising. I’ve been on nine already and have seen many islands that I would enjoy visiting again. There are many more that I can’t wait to explore. Traveling is definitely something that makes me tick.
What do you do with idle time? I rarely have idle time between working full time at the fire department and running a successful online health and wellness business. But when I do have time, I enjoy lounging on the couch in my sweatpants. My two cats are typically cuddled up with me while we watch a love story drama on Netflix.
What is it that makes you angry? I try not to get angry, but when I do, it’s more than likely because someone has a close-minded mindset or is lazy and refuses to put in the work.
What do you do to escape from reality? I like to workout and move my body every day. Sometimes it’s intense cardio, sometimes it’s heavy lifting and other times is stretching and yoga. Those 30-40 minutes each day help me destress, sweat out my emotions and get my mind in a place to tackle any obstacle that is thrown my way. I’ve just recently started meditating at night. I’ve enjoyed it so far.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My husband, Tony. He and I met in 2016. From the very first date, we knew it was something special. I think we had to tell the waitress to come back about seven times before we ordered. We hadn’t even opened the menus yet. I can’t imagine doing life with any other person.
Which living person in Hendricks County do you most admire? The Hendricks County resident that I admire the most is my former volleyball coach, Kelly Gamble. As a successful woman, I admire other successful women. Throughout my playing career, she expected nothing less than my best at ALL times. Our seasons were filled with intensity, reaching new potentials and playing with a winner’s mentality. She encouraged team building and leadership on and off the court. I’ve taken many of the lessons learned by playing for Kelly into my adult life. Strong females need other strong females to look up to and aspire to be like. Thank you Kelly, for being one of those women in my life. You taught me much more than how to be a successful volleyball player.
What is the quality you most like in a man? Supporting their significant other in their own hopes and dreams and willingness to help them achieve ultimate happiness.
What is the quality you most like in a woman? Having a tenacious work ethic and drive to succeed.
What is your greatest extravagance? I haven’t gotten it yet, but I’m working to spend more money than others might want to spend to create our own “backyard oasis.” We want a pool, fire pit, hot tub, tiki bar and pergola. I’ve been working extra hard to save up to create that. It’s close to happening. Although, it may seem like an extravagance, I know I’ve worked hard for every penny.
What are your fears, phobias? Bugs! AHHH…anything that flies, crawls, slithers, creeps, etc. It’s bad! Literally.
What has been the happiest time of your life? Right now! I have truly found my calling in life. I have the people in my circle that push me and support my goals, and the future looks bright.
Which talent would you most like to possess? I’ve always said if I could come back in a different life I’d come back as a singer/performer. I’d love to rock out a stage.
What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I have always thought of Michael Jordan as someone that not only was great at the game of basketball, but also in the game of life.
What is your greatest regret? Not spending enough time with my grandma before Alzheimer’s/dementia took over.
What tenet do you live by? Change your thoughts, you change your world.