Romancing the Voting Public
Thanks so much for the kind remarks; I really
appreciate it. There is about 90 percent of my career
I am willing to allow you to model, but then there
is about 10 percent that I urge you not to—but
more on that some other time. Let’s just say that not
everyone in our business loves this business and actu-
ally loves being a firefighter like we do—is that crazy
or what!? I know, I know, it’s insane. But ’nuff said
Getting a community to support your department
is kinda like dating—RARELY is it “love at first
sight.” In most cases, it takes a long time of getting to
know one another well before any of the “good stuff”
–The Scouts? Of course.
–The ball games? Yep. Send a crew to stand by.
SHOW the public that the fire department is
an integral part of their lives!
After all, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!
I’m a recently promoted lieutenant in the Mid-
west. I’ve read your books (Pass It On: What We
Know … What We Want You to Know and Pass It
On: The 2nd Alarm) and was very fortunate to be
able to attend your class at FDIC last year.
I am looking for some help and direction with a
problem we have, and you were the first person
I thought of. To give you some background on
our response area, we are a 36-square-mile fire
protection district with four stations and run just
under 4,000 calls per year. We are a combina-
tion department with about 25 percent of our
members being union full-time and the balance
nonunion part time and call members. It’s a
great and growing community and, for the most
part, we are seen in a positive light by the public.
We do, however, have some financial issues
that are coming to a head. The fire district
has not passed a referendum since 1996. The
makeup of the area, including population and
need for fire and EMS protection, is much greater
than it was 21 years ago. Compared to our surrounding towns, our tax base is substantially
lower, and we need a referendum in a bad way.
Our previous two attempts, in 2009 and 2013,
were unsuccessful, mostly because of poor
preparation and planning. We’ve been informed
that we are going to make another attempt this
March and again in November if we don’t pass it.
This doesn’t leave us much time to “get ready,”
but I want to do whatever I can to help get this
done. We’ve established a committee that includes
members from our recently formed union, the fire
foundation, the district board, and the fire chief.
I want to use any avenues that I can to get
the message to the public and convey the cor-
rect message that we NEED this and aren’t just
looking for a handout. One hurdle I would like
to overcome is that we are not an entity of the
village but a fire protection district. The police
department just built a beautiful new headquar-
ters and purchased all brand-new cruisers. The
public thinks police and fire are one and the
same, and when they see those things, they
think, “Money must be good for those guys!”
They don’t realize we have an engine with
165,000 miles on it running down the road still
responding to their emergency!
In addition to some news articles that I’m working on to showcase our old and failing apparatus,
I wanted to get something up on our Facebook
page and Web site that highlights the difference
between a protection district and a village department to start getting the message out. If you have
any information, publications, advice, or words of
wisdom, I am all ears and very grateful.
Thank you very much for taking the time to
read this and consider us. I know you’re very
busy and highly sought after for advice. And
again, thank you for all you continue to give
back to the fire service. I am trying to model my
career based on your influences and direction.
I’ve got a long way to go, but I give it my all
every day! I hope to hear from you soon.
— Hell-Bent Midwesterner