During his long and storied ownership of the Rural/ Metro Corp., the late Louis A. Witzeman Jr. was described by his family and former colleagues as someone who loved Scottsdale and serving the community.
On Thursday morning, part of Scottsdale loved him back.
About 100 people, including city officials, police and fire departments members and several members of the Witzeman family, were on hand to see the formal dedication of the Louis A. Witzeman Jr. Public Safety Building at 8401 E. Indian School Road.
The 48,000-square-foot structure serves as the headquarters for the Scottsdale fire and police departments. It formerly was the headquarters of the Rural/Metro Fire Department until the city started its own fire department July 1, 2005.
Witzeman, who died at age 79 in 2004, founded the privately owned company in 1948 after working as a newspaper reporter in the state. It marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship serving the emergency needs of Scottsdale.
“This validates his career,” said Susan Witzeman, his widow. “It’s a great honor to have this building named after him. He would’ve been humbled by this. He love Scottsdale, and always wanted to make it a better place.”
A plaque bearing Witzeman’s name was placed on the building near the front door as part of the dedication.
Witzeman retired in the early 1980s, said his daughter, Jodie Witzeman, 35. She and her brother, Brian, 35, were two of the six Witzeman children present for the dedication as were three of Witzeman’s 13 grandchildren and his brother, Bob.
Rural/Metro began with 10 employees, a used pumper truck and an ambulance in a small station on the northwest corner of Brown and Second streets, said Bob Edwards, former vice president and chief operating officer. It grew into a nationwide firm with more than 11,000 employees and it became publicly-traded in the late 1980s, Edwards said.
“I don’t think this building could be dedicated to anyone better than Lou Witzeman,” Edwards said.
Brian Witzeman said his dad often bragged about his “white horses,” his philosophy of using free market to work with government and fill a community need.
“He would’ve loved this,” Witzeman said. “He truly believed in Scottsdale and the Rural/Metro employees. He filled a need.”
Scottsdale Fire Chief William McDonald said Thursday’s event marked a great day for the fire department.
“Louis Witzeman was so much a part of the community, and this will help keep him as part of the history of Scottsdale,” he said.