Laurie Mooney’s fire service career started in 1983, when she was hired by the City of Longwood, FL, Fire Rescue Department as one of its first female firefighters. In preparation for getting hired as a firefighter, Mooney became certified as both a Florida EMT and paramedic. Consequently...
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Laurie Mooney’s fire service career started in 1983, when she was hired by the City of Longwood, FL, Fire Rescue Department as one of its first female firefighters. In preparation for getting hired as a firefighter, Mooney became certified as both a Florida EMT and paramedic. Consequently, Longwood’s fire chief readily hired Mooney for a vacant paramedic/firefighter position, and she was assigned to a busy medic unit.
As with all probationary firefighters, Mooney’s first few years were filled with much anxiety, excitement, fear and satisfaction as she developed her expertise as a firefighter/paramedic.
“It really was a stressful time for both me and my family,” she said. “Mom especially worried about her 22-year-old daughter responding to fires and emergency incidents. However, my lieutenant was a really decent gentleman and treated me just like his own sister. Being a rookie firefighter is perhaps the funniest period of any firefighters’ career.”
The fire service of 25 years ago was generally quite tough and cruel to all new firefighters, but especially so to female firefighters, who were convenient targets for negative comments, practical jokes and incidents of sexual harassment. In Mooney’s case, she found the Longwood Fire Rescue Department to possess professional officers with a positive organizational culture. Her officers took their supervisory roles seriously, offering Laurie many career suggestions within the limits of their own experiences.
After completing recruit training, Mooney spent much of her off-duty time attending Seminole Community College. She took virtually every course related to EMS, fire service, hazardous materials, inspections, investigations, public health, management and supervision. Over the next 10 years, she was promoted to engineer and then lieutenant/company officer. Mooney eventually accumulated enough college credits to earn an associate of science degree in fire science technology.
“The fire chief really encouraged me to pursue my education,” Mooney said. “While it was a challenge to attend class because of my shift assignment, there were very few classes that I missed because of the cooperation and support I received from my supervisors and coworkers. I’ll always be indebted to them for their willingness to help me attend class.”
Longwood’s fire chief continued to be impressed with Mooney’s passion for career development and he encouraged her to attend Florida’s Law Enforcement Academy. After earning her certification as a Florida police officer, Laurie was appointed as training officer and arson investigator. However, after 10 years employment with Longwood, Mooney, like many middle-aged careerists, had lost her focus and passion for attending college. Her busy staff position kept her occupied developing training schedules/curriculums, and conducting fire cause determination investigations. She was promoted to battalion chief in 1999 supervising all shift operations.
After completing a career self-assessment, Mooney began researching colleges on what was required to earn her bachelor of science degree in public administration. She met with admission counselors at various colleges and received the same feedback: “We can’t accept this credit, that credit, this course was too long ago, we can’t recognize this course, why did you take that course,” etc.
The end result of their transcript evaluations was Mooney needed to take another full year of college courses just to be eligible to start a bachelor’s program.
“I just never imagined how difficult it would be to transfer my associate credits toward a four-year degree,” Mooney. “The college counselors and admissions directors I spoke with just didn’t seem interested about the extra money and time I would have to spend in order to gain acceptance. Almost everyone I spoke with offered different advice, so I eventually just gave up on ever completing my bachelor’s degree.”