03-10-1999, 08:47 AM #1ccc530Firehouse.com Guest
Vol. Fire Officers: elected, appointed or hired?
From the topic: "Volunteer fire fighters, what really burns you", comes this topic. I have already stated some of my thoughts there. However, I want to explore this further. I am wondering about your experiences and your thoughts. How does your system work? Do you elect? How long do they serve? Do you have term limits? Is your chief hired or elected? Are your B/C's, Cpt's. and Lt's appointed or elected? Are they accountable and to who? Let's hear it! The good and the bad.
03-10-1999, 07:02 PM #2pjacksonFirehouse.com Guest
I belong to a small town dept.We just recently hired a part time/full time chief which brought together our three stns.Up to that point all three halls kind of did their
own thing, two voted their Captins in and the third did an oral exam.We found that the Captains that were voted in were GREAT GUYS but their firefighting skills left alot to be desired! Now we are all doing exams and the caliber of officers has improved greatly.
03-11-1999, 01:32 AM #3GillFirehouse.com Guest
I came from a big vol department, made up of 16 stations. The Chief of the department is appointed by the county commission. The Asst. Chief is appointed by the Chief and approved by the commission...both are paid full time.
Each station has a BC, a Capt, and at least on Lt. They are all voted in by the members of the station, annually.
This kind of poses a problem, because by voting officers in, some of them...all of mine recently, are incompetent fireground leaders, and their firefighting skills are lacking. I would also point out that our voting system isn't always the way officers are "voted in". Some members have been told by the chief officers that certain people need to be made officers.
So I guess in reality, our chief officers pick who the officers will be, and we vote annually, so that we feel like we have a say in things.
That's how it is done in my world. I like the idea of having to test for officer positions so that elections don't turn into popularity contests.
03-11-1999, 12:06 PM #4WESTPLATTEFIREFirehouse.com Guest
Our FPD has 1 sta., 3,000 pop. and growing and we elect our Chief and 2 asst. each year. Requirements are only being on the dept for 1 year. Our board hired a EMS sup to manage ALS amb. and delegated some chief responsibilities to her. Needless to say it is a popularity contest and the chief etc. do not have abilities. Hope is this will change soon.
03-11-1999, 03:08 PM #5NMFD33Firehouse.com Guest
im only a junior, but here in new milford, nj all the officers are elected by the membership. juniors like myself dont have a vote. from Lt to Chief they are voted on.
Junior FF,New Milford, NJ
Chief/Pres Fire/Ems Post 402
...KNHS 714 to the New Milord Fire Department, we have a report of a fully envolved house fire at...
03-11-1999, 03:12 PM #6TomaFirehouse.com Guest
ccc530 I just read your comments on election and appointments of officers. It has been my experience that popular vote is the way our officers are elected on an annual basis. Unfortunately it doesn't matter what you know or how well you perform because of the predominate good old by theory and most chiefs are elected at the local bar (Station 2) and by inuendo and slander the dispose of anyone they are afraid of. I have been an instructor for 30+ years and have very seldom seen a change in these tactics in volunteer depts. There are however a few that test and update annualy and they are to be commended
03-11-1999, 05:58 PM #7AffFirehouse.com Guest
Our Chief is fulltime hired by the city but all are officers are a result of testing and oral interviews. Not only are the interviews done with inhouse personnel, our mutual aid departments are encouraged to send a representitive. This all provides for compitent officers. The only elected position is the deputy chief, and has a very stringent list of minimum qualifications to be selected. This eliminates a popular person that has been around forever but has not done anything to boost his career. This provides a good alternate to the fulltime chief and lets the rank and file have a say. ...be safe
03-12-1999, 08:10 AM #8ccc530Firehouse.com Guest
Our Chief is paid and reports to city manager, who reports to the city commission. Lt, Cpt, B/C mus t meet certain qualifications. But you can't rule out politics. They will play in the oral boards. Next question: What do you do when you have minimum qualifications and testing, but have no qualified individuals, and you need an officer?
03-12-1999, 09:53 AM #9Scott ClarkFirehouse.com Guest
Boy Carl you really know how to complicate things! Actually that last question you asked was a good one and is what many FD's face every election year. I don't think though it is that they don't have the qualified individuals, as much as they have the individuals but they don't want to put up with the headache's of the position's so they don't run for office. The problem as I see it is that it all comes back to training and attitudes. For some they can't be bothered to train. I find those who oppose training the most have the biggest ego problems. As I mentioned in a earlier forum "our department's are only a reflection of our administrations". If you have lazy egotistic managers (you notice I didn't use the word "leader") you develop a sluggish enviroment in your department that prohibits firefighters from developing themselves in to tomorrows leaders. So the cycle of bad training and poor development continues because the new member that comes in doesn't know any better and the veteran gets tired of the "everday ego battle" and just gives up. It's a lose, lose situation. The thing is though, I feel sorry for the civilians. The poor people have no idea what is happening to their emergency service units. What needs to change is that all officers need to be held accountable. As a past Deputy Chief "I walked my talk". And if Was inappropriate my under-officers were allowed to call me on it as I was with them. It was always done professionally and with respect. Remember anyone can be a manager of a fire department, but only those who put their subordinates needs ahead of their own wants will only then become a true leader.
If we stand united.... We will never fall.
03-12-1999, 11:10 PM #10Greg ChowFirehouse.com Guest
Hi cc.I come from a Dept. of 35 members.We have a paid Chief,Asst. Chief.Our system mandates that you must have minimum standards before you are able to write the officers exam.we go by rating system.ie.practise attendence,fire call,able to operate all equipment,and then at the very last is seniority(if required).the officers then will undergo a annual evaluation by the 3 top senior officers.if an ifficer cannot keep up with those standards then he should step down,or will be forced to by the rest of the officers.I feel if you let the firefighters do this it would turn into a popularity contest.
03-13-1999, 09:06 AM #11ccc530Firehouse.com Guest
Yes it is complicated. It takes a combination of knowledge, leadership, guts, determination, courage, etc. But how do you test for all of that? Also, is your problem with your leaders a personal one? Is it one of style or proceedure? Or is it that the "good o' boy" just doesn't know his spanner from his hydrant wrench. Let me say this: 30 years in the work place and I can say it's the same thing no matter where you go. 10% of the people do 90% of the work. 10% fo the people are enthusiastic and willing to learn and improve. 90% just want to cruise. That is why there are so few leaders. Ever notice that when milk is churned, the cream rises to the top. Not everyone will be a leader. Those who are, must press on regardless. Unfortunatly, sometimes leaders do get tired and become faint of heart. That is why we must encorage our leaders. Encorage those who DO know what they are doing to continue to lead. We must also be humble enough to receive criticism and instruction from those former leaders. It all boils down to additude and purpose. Why are you there, and why you are doing it. Think about this: Have you have noticed that a train engine is either pushing or pulling; while ALL of the cars are "going along for the ride".
03-16-1999, 09:16 AM #12Cdaileym@netscape.netFirehouse.com Guest
Here in small town Canton,ME our officers are all elected by the dept yearly and the selectmen must approve new chief. Our chief of 16 plus years just resigned last fall due to health reasons. His asst took over and he has followed in a good leaders footsteps. We have had our elections and he is now chief with one of capts. moving up to 2nd asst chief. They are all very experienced in FF and are great teachers and leaders. We try to rotate some officers so that all get a chance to show their stuff. Most of the time it works out well. We also have seperate rescue officers who hold positions in both. Our rescue is also an excellent fire LT. and safety officer. We lost asst. rescue chief due to health reasons and voted to leave the position vacant for 6 mos to one year. We just use seniority and experience if the chief can't be there and no one argues. I believe that the 2 chiefs get a small stipend from the town yearly but that is all.Definitely volunteer all the way. We have tried to come up with pay per call attended plans but the townspeople are tight, budget wise. If only they would show their appreciation more. But when they need help we better be there or we hear about it. When we try to hold fundraisers, we get alot of comments about how they paid enough in their taxes already. Oh, well. That's our story. Hope to hear more. Moe D.
03-17-1999, 08:21 AM #13ccc530Firehouse.com Guest
Question-who or what are "selectmen"?
Comment-Pay per call can be a blessing and/or a curse. If the community thinks they are "paying alot of taxes" now when you are volunteer, then how much MORE will they pay if all of the volunteers get discouraged and the city HAS to hire fulltime PAID firefighters! Sounds like you need to do a little public educating there!
03-17-1999, 06:13 PM #14AffFirehouse.com Guest
In reply to ccc530, I can attest to this. Due to expansion, politics, and ect., we in Oakdale had to build a new station. There where people at the city council meeting that accuses the department of building a 1.5 million dollar garage. What would they say if new taxes are levied to pay for a fulltime staff?
03-19-1999, 08:33 AM #15ccc530Firehouse.com Guest
We have gotten off of the subject a little but P.R. is so important these days. We must educate the public about who we are , what we do and how much we are saving the taxpayers. Something is wrong if the public thinks that they just paid for a $1.5M "garage".
03-19-1999, 09:03 AM #16Scott ClarkFirehouse.com Guest
To get your forum back on track Carl, I would answer your original forum question with.......PAID! As much as I don't want to see this happen, I'm discovering that the department that has consistant leadership that is not put in to office by the popularity vote seems to run better. I have three forums going now about management issues, COMBINATION FIRE DEPARTMENT - FRIEND OR FOE?, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER - WHAT REALLY BURNS YOU? and WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR LEADERSHIP?. From these forum responses I have found that departments with paid leadership seem to fair better. I know Carl you have commented in these and I wonder what you think? I do believe though volunteer leadership could survive if our system of the officer selection process was just re-organized or designed with a merit type system. (That just got my wheels turning....I'll post something to this nature in a couple of days!)
If we stand united.... We will never fall.
03-19-1999, 10:25 AM #17Dalmation90Firehouse.com Guest
In New England, pretty much all local government is town gov't with very limited counties (Indeed, no county gov't in Connecticut or Rhode Island, and Massachussetts has disbanded half their counties, and probably will disband the rest within a couple years).
And most towns are governed by a Board of Selectmen. Typically the Board of Selectmen (usually 3 to 5 in number) are the Chief Executive Officer of the town, with the First Selectmen serving as the Chief Administrative Officer. The Town Meeting is the legislative body of the town that passes ordinances, budgets, etc. Between the First Selectman, the Board of Selectmen, and the Town Meeting are the powers normally held by a Mayor and Town Council in most of the country.
And trust me folks, if you think politicing can produce some weird results in a fire hall election, you've never seen what can be done in an open Town Meeting where every elector in a town is allowed to vote and only a few hundred usually show up
03-19-1999, 12:51 PM #18ccc530Firehouse.com Guest
Scott- I conceed the fact that consistant leadership seems to work the best. Our department (volunteer fire supression), appoints officers who must meet certain standards and appear before an oral board. It's not perfect, but it does keep things stable. Every year the officers performance is reviewed by the Chief. The Chief can remove the officer at any time. It's just too bad that we can't seem to maintain a humble additude. That works the best!
03-28-1999, 05:44 PM #19JAY FROM OHIOFirehouse.com Guest
Hi. I am from a small department where the chief and assistant chief have been elected (since the beginning of time I think). Within the past year and a half, the decision was reached to appoint a chief by the township trustees (our bosses. In turn the Chief appoints his assistant chief. There are no length of appointments. We've had varied success with this. The first chief that was appointed, did well for the first six months and then seem to lose interest in the job. It took A LOT to prove to the trustees that he wasn't doing a responsible job of providing protection to the community we serve. There came a period of time where, approximately half the department was ready to leave because there was no leadership and it was a free-for-all. We since had a new chief appointed (incidently the guy everyone wanted as chief in the first place), who has cleaned the place up. Morale and attendence is up.
When our officers were voted in, there were people who attended meetings (at election time only), that most people thought had fallen off the earth. It was not the best man for the job, but the guy who could kiss the most butt the month before elections.
Officers should be appointed, in my opinion, IF there is a review system in place that will keep the officers in check.
A fire department can only be as good as it's leadership.
04-02-1999, 04:13 PM #20BVFDFirehouse.com Guest
I have never heard of electing officers, and quite frankly, the idea scares me! Our Chief is appointed by council. The Asst. Chief is appointed by the Chief, and confirmed by council. Capt. and Lt. ranks are decided on after written and oral exams, then approved by the village council. I don't know if I would stay on the dept. if officers were elected. I wouldn't feel safe!
04-02-1999, 05:32 PM #21stone35Firehouse.com Guest
Our Volunteer Dept. uses a voting process to place officers. There are criteria that come with being able to "run" for a postition though. You must have been on the dept for so many years, etc. I personally do not like this process at all. I have been trying to gather some facts and information in regards to testing candidates before they are allowed to become an officer. Appointments for some positions are acceptable, and elections aren't bad either in some situations, but when it comes down to the life and death scenerios I want a competent source.
04-05-1999, 09:36 AM #22Perry2085Firehouse.com Guest
I come from a small department who has our Chief appointed by our local Trusties. In our department you have to take a test for the positions of Lt., Captain and Asst. Chief. We currently do not have the position of Asst. Chief but it was replaced by a Executive Captain. My thinking is it shoud be obtained by the best person who's skills of a Firefighter as well as the skills of a manager. The good old days have come and gone. We have to start thinking what is best for our members. Times are changing and we have to change with them.
I once took a exam out of state and I was #1 on the list after the written and physical agility. When I interviewed with the BC's and Captain, I was told I was over-qualified due to my extensive Instructor certificates in Haz-Mat, River, EMS and Extrication. They felt I knew more than thier own training officers and did not want me to show them up.
These days of the good old boys are thru and in every dept there are some that one day will be officers and until then we will have to live with it.
Also we have to inform the public on what we do. PR is what we need these days in order for our money to keep flowing. We take a proactive approach within our dept. It is still unbelivable that we still have people that do not know that we are here 24/7. We need to educate our public and get out and be seen. Let them know what we do for them and others. I hope this helps some. These are just my views expressed here and I hope one day that I will be in a position to charge on with these views.
04-06-1999, 03:39 PM #23Capt. SkippyFirehouse.com Guest
On our Division, the Fire Chief (full-time) is hired by the City Manager (CM), who is hired by city council. The Fire Chief is directly responsibile to the CM, who is resposibile to the council. The rest of the Division are paid-on-call volunteers. The Fire Chief has set up a system where the Asst. Chief, two station Captains and four Lieutenants have to take a written exam and an oral board to be promoted to their positions. This systems includes a point system for years of service (lightly weighted), training hours received (heavily weighted), percentage of runs made (moderately weighted), personnal attitude (moderately weighted) and a set of minimum qualifications (very heavily weighted!). The Asst. Chief is evaulated by the Chief alone, all other positions the Chief and Asst. Chief evaulate them together. Once a decision is made on the appointments by the Chief and Asst. Chief, a recommendation is passed along to the CM for him to make the final decision, since he is the man who "hires and fires". All officers and firefighters are considered part-time city employees by virtue of being paid-on-call, and are thus subject to the same employee handbook as all other city employees. The Fire Chief recommends any disiplinary actions to the CM who then approves or directs otherwise. All in all, the system works relatively well, but as was mentioned earlier, what do you do when there are no canidates that meet the minimum qualifications or the only canidates that apply have extremely poor people skills or none at all. These individuals, in my experience, can cause a department a lot of negitive feelings in the community by their lack of these skills.
04-07-1999, 07:52 AM #24turbotim66Firehouse.com Guest
I worked on a vol fire dept that the officers were all elected by popular vote. Each position had minimum Qual's, and had to be nominated by at least 2 members.Each member had 1 vote/position. they dept was one of the best I have been on, been on 5, 3 vol and 2 paid. the officers voted in know they are there to do a job and get it done. if they mantain a professional attitude there is nothing wrong with this system. If it becomes political the members have no one but them selves to blame.
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