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  1. #1
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    Default Suggestions for New Officer in Vollie dept

    I am in the process of dotting the i's and crossing the t's of the steps required to become an officer in my volunteer department. Because of politics and other nonsense, we are very short on officers.

    An assistant chief asked me to run for an officer position because he feels I have the skills and mentality to do the job effectively. I guess I was flattered by his asking.

    I am eager to take on the job, but have some reservations about doing it because of all the drama that goes along with being an officer in a volunteer organization where the "indians" vote for the "chiefs" and have the power to vote an officer out because they'd rather see their buddies in his slot.

    It has happened numerous times in our department. It seems as though all the officers--even the chief-- have crosshairs on them all the time. One unpopular decision and you're done.

    I know our department is not alone in this predicament.

    Even though I have to go through the election process in a few months, I feel like I should start getting my head together now since I've been told by numerous people (from different "factions" inside the dept.) that they all would like to see me as an officer. That's exactly what has me worried.

    I will be the first to tell anyone that I am not an expert in anything and I don't pretend to know everything. However, I do think I have a solid grasp of what needs to be done at my lowly level of officership firematically.

    I'm more worried about people management and wrangling in all the resentful underlings who are just dying to be in my shoes but whose previous actions/attitudes have prevented them from being able to be elected. You know the story.

    There is no "People Management" classes at the academy.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.


  2. #2
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    wow...no one, huh?

  3. #3
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    Wow...not one response?

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    MembersZone Subscriber JaredMTFD's Avatar
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    My first reaction is to tell you to do what you know is right and best for the department, regardless of who complains. I know this is easier said than done. A few years ago, a bylaw change was passed regarding officers, and now only the Chief is the elected position. He then appoints all his officers, from the deputy chief on down. This eliminates the popularity contest, and an officer can act more freely without the fear of being voted out. I hope that the next step is for the chief to be appointed as well, by the fire district board.

  5. #5
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    Try not to get caught up in all the BS. As an officer, try to take a detached look at things that people are going to try to drag you into. They're going to try and get you to commit to a cause that you may or may not feel is going to get you into trouble. You won't be able to get out of all of them, but you may be able to fend off some of it. Naturally, this may not be possible on the fire scene, but is entirely possible to try in regards to the politics.

  6. #6
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    That's the problem...it's just easier SAID than done. As of now, our department only has one assistant chief that no one bitches about and everyone likes. I'm trying to figure out how he does it. He happens to be the one wanting me to get in so he has some help underneath.

    Part of me says it would be best to let the guys do what they do with little intervention unless they do something wildly wrong. However, many of our guys act like idiots whenever they get a chance. Lots of inappropriate radio chatter and unprofessional talk over the air. That kills me.

    We had a decent job the other night and all I heard after the fact was how all the officers on scene (from other depts) were all idiots and control freaks.

    One complaint was that an new LT (another dept) was preventing our guys from entering the fire room (a bedroom). There was already six guys in there and they were clearly unnecessary. I thought the LT was doing the right thing and probably would have done the same thing.

    What I'm doing now is visualizing myself as an LT when on calls when I'm riding in the back and trying to visualize what I would do and say and how the guys would react. What a mess...

  7. #7
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    Remember that until people in leadership start to do something about the problems nothing will get done. My advice to you is to treat everyone equally and make all of them follow whatever SOP/SOG's and bylaws that you have set up. And make sure that you are familiar with all of them as well and that you and the rest of the officer team follow them.

  8. #8
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    Many of our SOGs are largely ignored by the whole department (leadership included). That's a BIG problem.

    Our department lacks discipline from the ground up. I like discipline because it breeds professionalism.

    As a junior officer, it's tough to implement change.

  9. #9
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    In that case it is best to lead by example. Hopefully the rest of the officer team will pick up on what you are doing and things will start to improve. Change is often hard to do since many of the members are entrenched in their "traditions". You just have to hope that since the Asst. Cheif has trust in you and it sounds like the rest of the department does as well that they will start to follow your lead.

  10. #10
    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    First of all, I think you would agree that an officer position should not be a poularity contest. It sounds like many mebers of your department need to grow up, but even on my job - the number one problem from the very top to the very bottom is that no one wants to do anything unless there is something in it for "me." It seems that nearly everyone is unable to do something for the good of the job anymore. Many, many good ideas are passed over because "I" didn't think of it and that guy isn't gonna get credit for it. Your Chief may have nominated you more because he thought you follow his lead and be a "yes" man than because of your actual ability to be an effective leader or your skills on the fireground.

    Specifically to you - Don't think that because you are an Officer that you are smarter or better than anyone else - especially when it is unfortunately by a popularity vote. IMO, a company level Officer is in the most precarious position in the fire department. You have to hear the complaints from the guys as the are pushed up, the crap from the bosses that roll down, and all the while try to PROTECT your guys and keep the bosses happy.

    Lastly, on the fireground - never underestimate YOUR responsibilities to your company. I know volunteer departments are different (I have been there) but there will still be members that are relying on you to pay attention to what is going on and make sure that when the incident is over that they are leaving there in relatively the same shape as when they arrived. Your job is no longer on the nozzle.
    Robert Kramer
    cell #901-494-9437

    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

  11. #11
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    Mephis, I hear exactly what you are saying.

    My thought was to have a heart to heart with the guys I would be in charge of laying everything out on the table from day one. I would do this not in our firehouse, but possibly over dinner someplace (on me).

    Here's what I would say:

    1) Thanks for voting for me. I will do my best not to let you down
    2) I realize that most of you here would gladly be in my position if you were age eligible and probably resent that "a new guy" came in took a spot that should be yours....but it is what it is and all I can ask is that you give me the same opportunities I would give you as a new officer.
    3) I don't pretend to know everything and will need all of your help to make us function effectively as team. If I ask for help, give it to me. If you have a suggestion, tell me, but please don't tell me I'm retarded every five seconds like you do to everyone else.
    4) I will go to bat for you guys provided you guys give me a reason to. In other words, don't put me in a position to have to reprimand you
    5) Let's turn over a new leaf and show everyone that we are professional in everything we do. No more fooling around. Do this for me and I will do my best to make sure it does not go unnoticed.

    Obviously, I wouldn't be reading off a list, but this is what's on mind at the moment. Am I crazy?

  12. #12
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Well...........

    Quote Originally Posted by egdave View Post
    Wow...not one response?

    Dave - Sorry, I just saw this thread just now.

    As you can see, I've been here for a short time....... But anyway, there are a few things that will help, even if it's a controversial question at hand.

    1. Be Consistent, treat EVERYONE the same, all the time.

    2. Always Follow up on anything that you can't do/fix/settle at that time. "I'll get back to you" is great, but ALWAYS get back. You don't have to tell someone what they want to hear, but you do have to tell them something. And don't "Make it up" Tell the Truth, even if the Truth is "I don't know, and I don't know where to go with this".

    3. Stick to doing things that you're at ease with. Many years ago, I tried to do something that I really didn't understand well, and failed miserably. I also studied the subject more, became comfortable with it, and now I'm an instructor. Life WILL get better as you go.

    4. Don't walk the Fence, make a decision. Often, a "Middle of the Road" position is in the best interests of the Department as a whole. But there is a Difference between taking a centrally located compromise, and straddling the Fence. Learn that, and you'll do well.

    5. Don't Shoot from the Hip. Listen, ask questions, learn, then do something based on what you KNOW, not what you're guessing at.

    6. ALWAYS remember there are a minimum of TWO sides to EVERYTHING, usually more.

    Last, come back here, often. This is one of the best places to find out what the "Other Guy" does. Sometimes the Other Guy's solution may apply to your problem, sometimes it may not. But look at things from different angles, and it will work out......
    Last edited by hwoods; 02-19-2009 at 12:37 PM.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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  13. #13
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    I'm not an officer so take what I say for what it is.

    I personally believe in volunteer orginizations, officers need to be accountable to the membership. The mere ability to provide a vote of no-confidence and have action take place because of it removes some of the 'good ole boy' network. Pure elections though have problems of thier own. My dept uses qualifications to be elgible to run for office and then a vote by the membership for office.

    Now, for what to do if you do in fact become an officer. As a FF, I expect my officer to live up to proper ethics, standards and SOP's. I expect them to use thier best judgement and think in the best interest of everyone. I don't expect to always like the outcomes and decisions but if they work in what they beleive to be the best interest of the whole, I will always respect them.

    If people want you to be an officer its because they trust you to make decisions that will be in the best interest of the department. Worry less about being liked/re-elected and more about doing the right thing. I mean really, do you want the job if you can't do the right thing?

  14. #14
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    An officer should lead from the front.I was told the two word definition of leadership was "Follow me."
    Remember how it was when you first joined your department and try not to bypass an opportunity to show the new guys how do make the job at hand easier to do.
    We didn't have elections on my old department.Officers were selected by the Board of Trustees and I cannot speak to what criteria they followed as I was not on long enough to be considered.
    I do know that officers were considered on the basis of the training that they had received and the skills shown on the fireground.It wasn't just an ol' boys' network.
    You had to prove that you had the smarts to wear the bugles.
    It didn't mean that some guys weren't thought of as "deserving" rank.There's always someone that thinks he should be the officer and you shouldn't.You still have to lead them when they respond to the same tones.
    I know I'm just speaking as the guy who was on the lower end of the totem pole but while there are lots of ways to impress your superiors by having your tees crossed,eyes dotted and being dashing in your uniform(there are those types,aren't there?) there's only one way to impress your subordinates:by knowing your job,standing up for them when called upon to do so and getting answers to questions that you don't have right away.
    Your follow up posts show that you've already considered that which shows a lot about you.
    Good luck at it.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Dave - Sorry, I just saw this thread just now.
    It's not your fault, I posted it last week but the mods took a really long time to actually make the post live (as usual).

    Thanks for your input.

  16. #16
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    One other question...right now because I am the "old guy", the younger fellas think "he's OK for an old guy"... so they talk to me like I'm one of them for the most part. I don't know (or care) who's dating who this week or where they went drinking the night before. I really only know FD related info about them. They tolerate me and don't leave me out of things which is nice.

    We are all cordial and on more than one occasion when they start badmouthing other guys not present, I always say "well, Joe Smith's never done anything to me to make dislike him, so he's OK with me". They can't really comprehend that notion, because they all love to jump on the "Joe is a jerk bandwagon." You know what I mean...and God forbid one of them gets going on you...forget it.

    How do you handle the transition from a blackhat to a leadership role? It's going to be really tough to make decisions and take not ruffling feathers into consideration. The last thing I want them to say is "Oh, Dave is an officer now and now he's a jerk" just because I was trying to follow a SOG.

  17. #17
    Back In Black ChiefKN's Avatar
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    The reality of an elected officer position is that it's real hard to juggle the normal day to day jobs of the position and maintain a level of popularity needed to get the job again next year!

    Be Honest.

    Offer your help to new guys and anyone who is looking to learn more. Being active and connected to the fire department is key. Showing up on drill night and for fire calls will not win over anyone.

    Participate in the social aspects of the firehouse and get to know the guys on a personal level. It doesn't hurt to have friends amongst the electorate!

    Get the "old" guys on your side. Don't believe that being the officer means you are suddenly smarter than the old doggies in the back. Let them work things out. Nothing twists me more than doing a simple thing (like breaking open a window) and having some snot-nose (kidding!) tell me how to do it.

    Also, don't challenge anyone in front of others if you don't have to. It's only gonna put you in a confrontation that will be hard for you to win. Better to get them one on one and talk with them about it.

    Don't run to the Chief if they don't "respect" you. Respect will have to be earned. Work harder and speak to that person one on one.


    .
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    The reality of an elected officer position is that it's real hard to juggle the normal day to day jobs of the position and maintain a level of popularity needed to get the job again next year!

    Be Honest.

    Offer your help to new guys and anyone who is looking to learn more. Being active and connected to the fire department is key. Showing up on drill night and for fire calls will not win over anyone.

    Participate in the social aspects of the firehouse and get to know the guys on a personal level. It doesn't hurt to have friends amongst the electorate!

    Get the "old" guys on your side. Don't believe that being the officer means you are suddenly smarter than the old doggies in the back. Let them work things out. Nothing twists me more than doing a simple thing (like breaking open a window) and having some snot-nose (kidding!) tell me how to do it.

    Also, don't challenge anyone in front of others if you don't have to. It's only gonna put you in a confrontation that will be hard for you to win. Better to get them one on one and talk with them about it.

    Don't run to the Chief if they don't "respect" you. Respect will have to be earned. Work harder and speak to that person one on one.


    .
    Wow...I think we might be on the same department!

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    I would take hwoods' post and engrave it on something, then read it frequently.
    Always do what is right, no favors, don't do something to win favor with someone, just do what is right. In your organization it may not lead to years as an officer but people will respect you.
    Good luck and hopefully you switch to a tested process soon.

  20. #20
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    HAHAHAHA, I was working up an answer as I was reading through the other responses, till I found the response from Chief Woods. Thats when I realized what I was working up is what he said, only he said it better than what I had "drafted".
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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