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  1. #1
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    Question Why are Volunteers elected?

    Not a thread meant to provoke, but an honest attempt to learn.

    Why is it that volunteers elect officers? Do you get the best officers that way? Are there any prereq's for someone to "run" for officer? Do people campaign?


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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Why are they elected? "Theoretically", their peers are selecting who they feel is best for the job.

    Do you get the best officers? Not always, lots are elected more on popularity at the time. Kind of like policitians...

    Are there prereqs? In my fire department their are prerequisites including minimum number of years as a firefighter, state certifications in IMS, FireFighter I, Pump School, Truck School, and suggestions of Fire Officer training.

    Do they campaign? Never had one yet.

    My question back - if we did not elect, where would the officers come from? Would it be a Mayor appointing someone as chief and then the chief appointing the rest of the officers? I think we would all agree that appointing a chief does not mean he will appoint the best guys below him over his good old friends. I think I read on one of the forums that is/has happened down south recently.

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    none of our officers are elected, our chief is appointed by the board of directors, and he appoints the officers under him

    alot of depts though do vote on such things...
    Shevais M. Shrum
    Western Wake Fire Rescue

  4. #4
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Why do we elect a city council or the President?

    There are many selection methods, all have their strengths and weaknesses and ways to be manipulated.

    By election, arbitrary appointment, civil service appointment, or seniority the officers you get are typically more a reflection of the department than it's method of choosing.

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    DAL -
    Why do we elect a city council or the President?
    Understood. However what I am asking is where did it originate and what are its strengths? Not looking to poke holes, just want to understand.


    Bones
    My question back - if we did not elect, where would the officers come from?
    I am not condemning the practice, just asking why it is done.

  6. #6
    Senior Member shammrock54's Avatar
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    Heres how my depts set up:
    My station/company- every year nominates and elects 6 Lts and a Captain along w/the company officers(president,Vp,treasure r, sec) w/ elections one month and voting the following month.

    The other Station/company- same w/ the exception they only elects 4 Lts instead of 6.

    Later each station/company nominates 2 of its members to the Town Selectmen and the Selectmen appoint one,however this is only a recommendation, we can be hit by anyone the selectmen choose. This constitutes the board of Fire Engineers who elect a Chief from themselves and the rest are Deputies.

    On the whole I think this system has some flaws, but from the avalible pool of experienced and members w/education we have had a good core of officers for the last five years under are current chief. One of the best things about doing it this way is that every member, down to the lowest probie has a say in who will lead him/her and whos hands they must place their lives. As far as campaigning goes I have rarely seen it and usually those people dont get elected. There are no set prerequists, but it is generally accepted that a Lt will be on the dept 5yrs or more.
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    Thanks Shammrock! Thats what I wanted to know.

  8. #8
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    JayTL:
    I am not condemning the practice, just asking why it is done
    I understand this, I was also just asking to see what others do.

    In my town (as that is all I can speak for) our department is run by our Fire Officers. We do not have a fire tax and/or Fire Commissioner. Our only real interaction with our Town Council is through a Fire Committee Chairman who is appointed by the Mayor each year. This Chairman is a member of council who most of the time is not a member and never was a member of the fire department. I would not want them, nor expect them, to be able to decide who will be good fire officers. Yes, we do answer on a higher level to the Town Council and Mayor, but we are very fortunate to have an excellent relationship with them.

    Other reason we have done it this way...Fire Company #1 is 117 years old, town is only 116! (first fire company in Ocean County, NJ - 1885)

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    I will be in Springlake in May, I would like to stop by. Maybe we could catch a diner. Let me know.


    I asked a volunteer from north of my city and he said "because thats the way it is" so I thought I would inquire on here. Thanks Bones

  10. #10
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Understood. However what I am asking is where did it originate and what are its strengths?

    Where it originated and it strengths are the same as my original answer -- the same reason a city council or President is elected.

    Upto the days of the formation of the National Guard, militia Lieutenants & Captains were typically elected by their companies. It wasn't unusual at all in the tradition of America back to colonial days for many officials to be "appointed" by election -- even today many New England towns not only elect Selectmen (Mayor/Council equivelants) but Town Clerks, Treasurers, Tax Collectors, Constables, and the such. Most of the United States still elects Sheriffs who may or may not have any law enforcement background. So elections are not that unusual in America, for public agencies or private organizations.

    The primary advantage is the membership has no one but themselves to blame for bad leaders elected, and periodically have the fair oppurtonity to fire them.

  11. #11
    Forum Member EastKyFF's Avatar
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    We don't vote on officers at my FD, but some do, and it at least provides a mechanism for getting rid of knotheads. If you don't select them, you can't de-select them.

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    why not have a promotional process??? And then promote the ones who are most qualified??? Wow... what a concept...

    Electing Vol Officers is almost a dumb as appointing them.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Electing Vol Officers is almost a dumb as appointing them.

    If no one's electing them, and no one's appointing them, then exactly how do they get promoted? A mysterious piece of paper appears one day from the primodial stew?

    Everyone is appointed somehow. Some self-appointed, some by others. The manner may vary, the criteria may vary. But like you said, it's the overall qualifications that matter.

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    The Board of Directors appoints our Fire Chief for an indefinite term. The Fire Chief then appoints other officers. We founded our department in 1996, and have had the same Chief (and subsequently, the same officers) since then. When our Chief retires, the Board will select a new Chief. It might be the AC or other officeróor it might not. Gauging by the way things are going now, all current officers would retain their positionsóbut I suppose that the new Chief could easily mix things up.

    I donít advocate the general body of firefighters electing new officers every year.

    I would like to see some standard in place for eligibility of officers, however.

    Why is it this way? Well, when we chartered the department, we looked at several area departments and felt that the yearly election interjected too much politics into the selection process. If the body of firefighters thinks the Chief needs to be replaced, they can voice their opinion at a Board Meeting, and the Board can take action. If the Board isn't responsive, they can be replaced by election. This system keeps temporary trends from dictating department leadership (in theory).
    Last edited by SilverCity4; 04-10-2002 at 05:22 PM.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

  15. #15
    Senior Member kfd232's Avatar
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    Default appointements and promotions

    When I volunteered the Chief of the department was selected by the City council. I believe he appointed 2 asst. chiefs under him... 1 for fire ops, 1 for ems ops.

    All other positions had a promotional policy in place.

    ie.

    If a firefighter wanted to become a driver he had to have attended a certain required amount of training and have in the proper amount of the emergency and non-emergency driving time and miles. Then he was given a test that covered maps, districts, sops, and general info about pumping and driving apparatus. If he passed the tests he could be promoted to the rank of Engineer.

    The same continues for Lt., Capt. etc.

    Just with stricter and harder guidelines for each one.
    I felt that we got some great officers that way, and currently that department is run by a great group of officers because they have the training, experience, and knowledge to do the job.

    Being given a rank because of something other than your training and experience is like...

    hmm... Western States University Diploma mill maybe?? I have been here the longest so I deserve the rank?? hog wash. A testing procedure really is the only fair way to attain rank, in my opinion.



    Scott Reasor
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  16. #16
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    Bones is right.... Theoretically as he says.

    Most departments do not get into the popularity contest until after the Chief is elected. I have seen attempts to elect losers in the lower ranks to force out the Chief. In this case the Chief is well qualified and no one wants to oppose because they dont want the responsibility. So they gripe and......and put in their "buds" to undermine.

    That is why I am for the Chief appointing his/her officers. I know it has good and bad points and I am sure we will see them all here. If it is done correctly, it is a big advantage. Of course as with everything...there is room for failure.

    My old Department went to it about 6-8 years ago and for the most part it has paid off.

    But...in answer to your question...Volunteers elect because that has been the tradition and that is the way their constitution and by-laws say they are to do it.
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    Where it originated and it strengths are the same as my original answer -- the same reason a city council or President is elected.
    Dal - Your answer is off base but I respect it. The strengths are certainly not the same, in my opinion. It is ludicrous, in any form, to compare electing council members and fire officers. We do not elect politicians based on "over-all qualifications", but based on the popularity of the candidate, as pointed out by Dr. Herman Franks. The mere comparison is a woeful condemnation of the process. I am thankful that others have provided a more plausible explanation, or perhaps a better sounding one. Your brother in debate.

    Cheers

  18. #18
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    I've worked under both systems. It's a little hard to compare, though, since there is a huge difference in size and response area of the 2 depts I've been in, but I'll through my 2 cents in.
    In the dept with elections, there were minimum qualifications to hold the offices. Most of the time, the people were good choices. Even though popularity may play a part, no one wants to elect an idiot to be in charge of them at a fire. Each position had a one year term, although company officers (capts & Lts) would usually stick around for 2 or 3 before stepping down or trying to move up.
    One benefit of elected officers with fixed term lengths (assuming the dept is big enough to circulate a qualified pool of officers through the ranks) is that after a couple of years, everyone is ready to get rid of the chiefs and they are usually ready to get out of office.
    With appointed officers, theoretically you have the benefit of more qualified people, since, theoretically, they are appointed by someone competent (this also assumes there are standards for each rank). Unfortunately, this system can also come down to a popularity contest, but the person only has to be popular with whoever is doing the appointing. As someone else mentioned, the person doing the appointing might be a politician who doesn't know what to look for in a fire chief. Another down side is that it is harder to get rid of someone who has overstayed their welcome. Rather than finishing up a term and returning to the rank and file or semi-retiring, the person has to be force out of office and will probably leave the dept completely.

  19. #19
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    Having been on only one side where the promotions for officer were made via test and interview, it certainly did not work very well. Our chief had his group of boys and they shot to the top, only some of them turned against him. I can see how you don't want to elect someone not up to the task. I don't see how any system is better, because better depends on your own view, but having been on one side I find the other side interesting and appealing.

  20. #20
    Forum Member LACAPT's Avatar
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    Don't know much about electing officers because we don't. We have to come up through the ranks do our time and when an officers position comes vacant the members from the floor have the opportunity to apply for the position. The selection process has all the officer corpse involved and the canidate is interviewed and then the chief and deputy select with recommendation from the officers. The chief and deputy ultimitly have the final say but it is very democratic in its proccess. The problem that I find with electing officers weather it be a 1 yr 2 yr or what ever time frame you look at there is the danger of loosing condinuity in the brigade. If you keep changing officers on a regular basis there is little consistancy. The other danger is that elections may become a popularity contest, meaning that if an officer has to some times be the bad guy in a situation for the good of the brigade the boys will punt him. The old saying what is popular is not nessesarily right and what may be right ain't always going to be popular. Just my rambling thoughts.

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