October 24, 2021

2 new Cortland city firefighters take oaths of office

Joining the family

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin swears in Jordan Zelsnack, second from right, and Mitchell Gosser, right, as firefighters Friday at Cortland Fire Department’s Court Street fire station.

The new firefighters who took the oath of office Friday at the Cortland Fire Station, join a family, one of their officers said. In one case, he joined the family he grew up with.

Mitchell Gosser, 22, of Cortland and Jordan Zelsnack, 25, of Marathon were sworn in as firefighters. Donn Hewes, 55, of Marathon and Matthew Van Heusen, 50, of Georgetown, were promoted from firefighter to captain.

The fill gaps left when Assistant Fire Chief and Chief Code Enforcement Officer William Knickerbocker retired June 26 and Fire Chief Charles Glover retired Sept. 20.

Jordan Zelsnack joined his brother Tyler Zelsnack, also a firefighter, and father James Zelsnack, a captain.

“I’m feeling great,” Jordan Zelsnack said. “My father works here, my brother works here. This is a family thing and I wanted to be here for the city of Cortland.”

Jordan Zelsnack was inspired by a long line of Zelsnack firefighters, said his father, James Zelsnack, whose father, Stephen Zelsnack, was a volunteer firefighter in Marathon. Stephen Zelsnack Jr., Jordan’s uncle and James’ brother, was also a firefighter in Cortland and Marathon until his death last year.

Jordan Zelsnack’s girlfriend Gina Tippett, 27 of Burlington Flats, also joined the celebration, along with her daughter, Raven Tippet, 5 and Jordan Zelsnack’s daughter, Emberly Zelsnack, 3.

With Jordan Zelsnack’s promotion, his father told him three things:

  • The department is a family.
  • Be humble and honored being chosen as a firefighter.
  • Be safe for yourself and the community.

The firefighters were chosen after taking civil service examinations, with those finishing in the top three picked as candidates, said Cortland acting Fire Chief Wayne Friedman, the acting chief. The top candidates were then interviewed to see who were the best fit.

Cortland City Mayor Brian Tobin swore in and expressed his confidence in the newest members of the department.

“I have the utmost confidence … that they are doing the job, they will do the job, not just to the best of their abilities, but to the highest level and we can be proud of our fire department that can stand up to any department in New York state and beyond,” Tobin said.