REPUBLIC, Mo.– New firefighters joined the ranks of the Republic Fire Department Friday.

In 2021, voters approved a sales tax increase to pay for more police officers and firefighters, the first such increase in 17 years. The safety tax sunsets after 25 years.

Ethan Cliburn is one of the six new Republic firefighters sworn in on Friday. They have completed the academy and will now be assigned to shifts.

“My dad was a first responder,” Cliburn said. “He was a police officer, and then my mom suffered a cardiac arrest back in the day and lived through it because of ER nurses that were running in the same race and some quick response by Springfield.”

Cliburn served as a volunteer firefighter at different departments before he applied with Republic.

“Today is a great day for the city of Republic,” said the city’s Fire Chief Duane Compton.

“When you look at what we had, population-based and the number of structures and the number of firefighters and the number of police officers, both police and fire were drastically short employees,” said Compton.

Compton grew up in Republic and said Highway 60 was a two-lane road when he was young, but now it could be expanded to six lanes someday. He said Republic is only going to grow further, with businesses and schools attracting people to the city. The city’s police and fire departments need more people to keep up with the increase in population, according to Compton.

Compton said in about six months the city will look at the budget and decide if they can hire even more new employees.

“We run a very conservative city,” he said. “We watch our money and where it’s going. We have concerns with the economy and a possible recession. If the money is not there, we will not hire them.”

Compton said they’d like to end the year hiring 15 people total, but that will depend on the budget since many things are costing the department twice what they did two years ago.

“Every fire department and police department, municipal government around here, they’re no different than us at home,” Compton said. “We’re spending a lot of money on fuel to get what we need, and obviously, inflation is affecting us. It affects us just like it affects your home budget.”