Making a positive difference in people's lives is what motivates Laurel Countian Nathan Kirby.
So he took his artistic talents, his past and present experience, and his passion for others and combined those qualities to enhance his interests to recognize his profession and the professionals who save lives.
Kirby submitted a redesign of the state's firefighters' license tag to the Kentucky Firefighters Association — and heard recently that his design was the one chosen among several other submissions.
Kirby, a full-time firefighter for the Corbin Fire Department, dedicates his life to helping people, juggling his time between several other public service jobs. He works part-time with the London City Fire Department, part-time with Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, and volunteers with the London-Laurel County Rescue Squad.
He became involved in public service when he trained as a firefighter with the London unit and the rescue squad.
"It just clicked with me," he said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do."
The son of Dennis and Peggy Kirby, Kirby was raised in Mt. Vernon until his family moved here in 2006. Since then, he has made Laurel County his home and became dedicated to helping those in the area.
With a bachelor degree in communications from the University of Louisville, he now serves as the Public Affairs Officer for the London-Laurel County Rescue Squad — again, combining his interest and experience to serve the public.
But his awareness that the license tag currently used for firefighters was not a popular one prompted him to create a new design that he felt was more complimentary to those who risk their lives to save people and property.
"The license tag for firefighters is a copy of Florida's and has a wavy United States flag with a cartoon-like firefighter on the side in a full face mask. Nobody liked it, especially since it was a copy of what Florida had," Kirby explained. "So I worked with the Vice President of the Kentucky Firefighters Association, Eric Philpot, who lives here in London. He was my mentor in this, and we re-structured the design. I started working on this around spring last year."
The new design features the Firefighters' Memorial flag, which is a United States flag in black and white with a thin red line through the middle. But Kirby said he had to take special care in the design due to strict regulations on license tags.
"We had to work with the Transportation Department and the Kentucky Firefighters Association because they have some strict regulations on the font, logos and size of the letters on the tags," he explained. "I've never had any formal art training but I interned at an ad agency where I did some designs and helped with PR (public relations) events and it just became a hobby for me."
That hobby sent his new license plate design to the KFA, where it received the highest number of votes from board members who had several other submissions to consider.
When Kirby learned that his selection had been chosen, he was elated.
"I was very pleased, very excited," he said. "And part of the money from the sales of the special license tags goes to help with death benefits of firefighters who have died in the line of duty."
The new license tags, however, are restricted to only firefighters and rescue squad members. Those wishing to purchase one of those tags must submit a letter from their area Emergency Management director detailing their involvement as a firefighter or rescue squad member. Since the new tags cannot be distributed until the existing tags are depleted, Kirby said those wishing to purchase the new tag must have it customized (or personalized).
"The only tags at the clerk's office are the old ones and the new ones won't be stocked until the old ones are all gone," Kirby said. "But if you customize, you can get one of the new ones."
Regardless, Kirby said he is honored that his design will now represent the many people who sacrifice their own safety in order to protect others.
"This is the best job in the world," he said. "You can help people in a positive way."