Building Bridges

Building Bridges

I would like to take a moment to thank our Past President Will Vaigneur for his leadership during the past year and for another great conference. Through his efforts, I know that his theme of “Fully-Involved Membership” will resonate for many years to come. Also, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the staff of our great association for all of their efforts and hard work during the week of the conference and throughout the year. Without this dedicated group of individuals and the leadership of Joe Palmer, it would be impossible to reach our goals and maintain such a lofty reputation throughout the state and nation.

I would like to begin by asking one simple question, are you a bridge-builder or are you part of the demolition team?

The theme of “Building Bridges” is of course referring to the Association and our efforts to build relationships on a state and national level, but with everything that we do, it has to have a foundation and our foundation starts with each of you, our membership.

When I began my career in the fire service, I was part of the demolition team. I was constantly complaining about my officers, my chief and the commissioners.  In my early 20’s I knew what was best, and those folks didn’t know anything. I was becoming miserable at work, and I really could not understand why until one of the older members asked me, “have you ever tried to understand their point of view?” Well, my answer was no and at that point I made it my mission to try and understand what drove a decision, why they made that decision and how it affected more than just me. Once I decided to take this approach in everything I did at church, with my family and at work, I quickly understood the complexity of each decision and how it affected not only me, but the organization as a whole. Does your department, shift or station invite EMS and law enforcement to come by the station and eat lunch or just hang out for a quick break, or do you view them as a bother? Is the local media just something that you have to deal with when you have an emergency or are you engaged with them and consider them a partner in your marketing and prevention activities? Is your local politician someone you steer clear of except when you need something, or do you try and develop a relationship of open communication and trust?

One of the main reasons I wanted to serve the State Firefighters’ Association was because I truly believe that our Association is fully committed to building bridges in our state and striving on a daily basis to unify our membership to offer one common voice in regards to fire service issues. Discussions during our Executive Committee meetings often focus around the fact that legislative efforts, training, recruitment and retention all start at the local level, and without the support of the local departments and communities very little could be accomplished.

Are you building bridges or tearing them down?

Tommy Norris
President, SCFFA

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