By Melinda Munson

Skagway Fire Chief Joe Rau is retiring. Well, re-retiring. 

“It was time. We have plans to be near family,” Joe said after submitting his resignation, effective Aug. 15. 

“It is unfortunate that we are losing him,” said Assemblymember Sam Bass, chair of Public Safety. “But our loss is another community’s gain.”

Joe started his fire service career in 1985. He retired in California in 2013, but retirement didn’t last long. He became a volunteer at the Skagway fire station in 2014 and in April of 2019, he was named fire chief. After 37 years, Joe is becoming a civilian.

“It’s time for me to be a grandpa,” Joe said. “I’m re-retiring.”

Joe and his wife, Cindy, plan to sell their house and move to Palmer, where, at least for the first winter, they’ll live in a winterized trailer with their dog, Stuart.

The Raus have children in Palmer and the Southcentral Alaskan town offers an easier trip to the airport when it comes time to visit grandchildren in the Lower 48.

Joe described the upcoming transition as “bittersweet.” His wife agreed.

Cindy began working at Skagway City School in 2014. She became the district’s music teacher in 2016.

“That was the hardest thing — telling them I’m leaving,” she said, describing the day she told students she wouldn’t be coming back for the 2021-2022 school year.

Cindy will also leave behind the position of fire chaplain, a role she’s filled since 2019. Having been a fire chaplain since 1998, Cindy said Skagway’s small population offered a unique opportunity.

“I’m going to miss out on serving people I already know and love,”  she said.

The couple plan to depart around Sept. 1.