Media relations director volunteers as fire chief

Woodburn resident Bob Skipper, 50, balances two jobs: volunteer fire chief for the Woodburn Fire Department and director of WKU Media Relations. Skipper has been fire chief for about six years, but he has been a volunteer firefighter for almost 25. He also has worked at WKU for 24 years. “I’ve been very fortunate in that my supervisors understand what I do,” Skipper said, who averages four meetings a month along with training for the fire department. “I enjoy helping people,” Skipper said. “We’ve got a great community, and we’re fortunate that they are very supportive of the department.”

Lauren Arnold

When some people think of Bob Skipper, they might think along the same lines as Louisville freshman Rachel Pedersen.

“I’m not really sure what he does,” she said. “I know he sends a lot of e-mails.”

As director of Media Relations, Skipper works to enhance WKU’s reputation through different media outlets.

He said his job at WKU isn’t a regular nine-to-five gig. And neither is his volunteer position as the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department fire chief.

Skipper has worked for WKU for 24 years, starting out as the university photographer and working his way up to his current position.

Skipper has been the fire chief at Woodburn for the past six years. He said the fire department makes anywhere from 300 to 350 runs a year.

His fire chief responsibilities include keeping equipment ready for use and dealing with government and state agencies.

“It’s just a little bit of everything on top of trying to keep up with training,” he said.

Then there is actually responding to emergencies, where Skipper is also in charge on the scene.

Skipper said that his position as fire chief has occasionally affected his job as director of Media Relations, but his position at WKU doesn’t have strict hours.

“I’ve been fortunate to have had supervisors who have allowed me the flexibility when I’ve needed to do something with the fire department as long as it didn’t adversely impact my job,” he said.

Tommy Newton, the assistant director of Media Relations, has worked with Skipper since 1999.

Over the summer, a power line at Newton’s Woodburn home sparked, and the fire department was called.

“Bob was on the other side of the county, but he responded to the run at my house,” Newton said.

Skipper said that being a university spokesman helps him while dealing with the public and news media on the scene of an emergency.

“The two positions work hand-in-hand in our community in that I’m known for both roles,” he said. “People recognize who I am, and that makes it easier to deal with them.”

Skipper and his wife, Kim, a watercolor artist, have two sons, Alex, 21, and Josh, 18, both of whom work for the fire department alongside their father.

Skipper said it’s probably most difficult for his wife, who has to deal with him and his sons leaving sometimes.

“But she’s proud of what we do and very supportive,” he said. “Probably a bigger toll is the mess of papers and things that I bring home to work on.”

Alex is a junior at WKU, and Josh is a freshman studying to become a full-time firefighter at Bowling Green Technical College.

Josh said working with his dad at the fire department is easy because he listens to the opinions of the people around him and takes them into consideration before making decisions.

Kim said she worries about her husband and sons when they respond to an emergency, but she is comforted in knowing that they have completed training to stay calm.

She also said that her house can get very chaotic at times, especially with all the dirty clothes from the runs they make with the fire department.

“But they love to do it, and what they do is very honorable,” she said.