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  1. #1
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    Question Voting for Officers

    We just had Annual elections for 1/3 of our Board of Directors (3yr term) and Chief (2yr term). Our By-Laws state that only Active Members (50% Meeting attendance) can vote. Some members have a big problem with this. The reasoning behind the rule was to keep people that have no idea about what is going on in the department, other than what they are told by this "side" or the other from swinging elections. There is now a motion in front of the B.O.D. to allow anyone that carries a membership card to vote, with no attendance or participation requirements. How do other departments handle this situation ? Any thoughts or comments are appreciated.


  2. #2
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    My department operates like yours. You must be an active, non-probationary (first year) member to vote for anything. We allow non-active (reserve) and probationary members to attend meetings and they are allowed to speak, but they cannot vote or motion to do anything. Our reasoning is the same as your dept's.

  3. #3
    Forum Member ffemt19's Avatar
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    Default

    Over here officers don't get voted but they have to do academy, examination by other officers (none of our department) and when they have the rank of officer they stay it for the rest of there job in our department (untill there pension).
    We use the military ranks: firefighter, korporal, sergeant, adjudant, leutenant, captain, (fire chief)commander, chief commander, kolonel.

  4. #4
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    Unhappy

    You think thats rough? On our Dept. the chief is appointed,
    but asst. and Dep. are elected as well as capt,lieut,operators and asst. operators. Anyone can vote regardless of time in service. We vote every Jan. so the last few months of the year resemble a presidential campaign. We do have years experience requirements for being elected but no proficency exams, sometimes it comes down to who is a nicer guy. I'll admit there were times I did'nt even vote.

  5. #5
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    All our officers are voted on and members in "Good Standing" are allowed to vote. Here's the problem, no one has ever defined "Good Standing". Right now as long as you meet the 33% Drills and 20% of your district runs you ok. We have our Rules&Ethics committe looking into a definition of "Good Standing".

    I feel you pain, though our particpation is up we've had the problem with members you don't see all year showing up to vote. What we did was make a push to remove those members not meeting the drill and run requirements. You might consider trying that tactic, basically get rid of the swings votes.
    Stevejd
    www.lcvfd.com

  6. #6
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Chief & Line Officers -- elected by Active Members (which have training & attendance requirements)

    Board of Directors, Secretary, Treasurer, Board of Admissions -- voted by Active, Veteran Members, and Associate Members.

    Probationary, Inactive, and Military Leave members have no votes.

    Active = active Firefighters & EMTs
    Veteran = formerly active members with > 15 years of service. Most veterans are "retired" but a few are semi-retired, keeping up their CDL-B licenses & certifications on a couple pieces of apparatus to assist as daytime drivers.
    Associates = don't respond to emergencies
    Probies = says it all
    Inactive = Usually people who've moved out of the area on a medium-term basis (a few years), lets them move back "active" without going through probation again -- Board of Directors moves you back to Active.
    Military Leave = Once you're enlistment is up, you're back on active duty.

  7. #7
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    Our Fire Chief is Elected by the membership. All those voting must meet the requirments to vote --- 50% meeting, drill, clean-up nights for the year. Tht singles me and a few others out from voting --- I work Nights and can't attend meetings and so forth -- and I can't vote or hold company office but thats cool with me

    Our Chef once elected than selects his line officers - Deputy, and Asst. Chief, Captains, and Lieutenants --- Never had a problem that I'm aware of in my company
    Stratford Fire Company # 1
    New Jersey State Firemen's Convention Champions - 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000

  8. #8
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    Default NO VOTE

    Voting for your leaders in the fire service is not a very good idea.All you are going to get is a popularity contest . The chief should be appointed by your elected officals based on qualifications. Your line officers should be appointed by your chief. Our department is run like this. It's not perfect, but better than voting. Your most popular members may not be good leaders, just lots of friends who will vote for them. We had a few members ask to vote but it didn't go anywear.They are the worst bunch on the department. From my experience everyone wants to be chief or Capt. but nobody will put in the effort. I've offered my redhat many times to people who are angry with me because we did some worthwhile drill for a change, they figure they don't need to put on an SCBA at drill, they'll do it if they have too. So far I have no takers. Honestly, its more fun being a firefighter than an officer anyday.

  9. #9
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    Oh, I agree Ratman but as you say even the appointment process isn't perfect. We've been moving to include better certification and experince for all officers to help narrow down the field of selection but it's a long process.

    The appoint of a least Dist. Chiefs, capt's and Lt.'s by the Chief as been discussed but that long road to make that change. Tradition is hard to change as we all know in Fire service right or wrong.

    I would be interested in your selection process that you use both for the chiefs postion and all others.
    Stevejd
    www.lcvfd.com

  10. #10
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    The chief should be appointed by your elected officals based on qualifications
    How many of your elected officials know squat about fire fighting? Really think they are good judges of a fire chief's abilities? Oh yeah, he has the the qualifications...courses taught in class rooms and paper tests. I would rather have the guys who know how someone is on the fireground deciding who is going to lead them instead of elected officials that know nothing about fire fighting making a decision based on tests. Book knowledge is great, but I know too many people who are book smart and street dumb. Have qualifications, but have more of a choice in who your leader's are than the outsiders do.

  11. #11
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    I believe the points being made here are consistant in one regard and that is there's no one perfect system. The key is to insure that you put as many safe guards in place to reduce the likelihood that an unqualified person gets it into any position. Where voting you can have the "He's a nice guy" problem or in appointment you have "He looks good on paper" problem.

    Defining the balance or the good points of each system should be the goal. I think maybe my department is on good path by leaving the voting in place but putting the requirments on paper inorder to eligiable.

    That raises a question I would like to ask. What requirments are others putting on thier officer positions? We currently require the following:

    Chief - Basic Cert. w/5years department
    Dist. Chief - Basic Cert. w/5yrs department
    Captain - 2yrs fire service w/1yr department
    Lt - 1yr w/department

    But as I said there is movement to make some big changes here as these requirement were estiblished will over 30 years ago when budgets put constraints on training. Plus we were a lot smaller. Basic cert. was a big accomplishment but today our recruits come out of our academy class with over half the hours required toward our Basic Cert.

    Do you guys here think this would fit better as a new Thread?
    Stevejd
    www.lcvfd.com

  12. #12
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    stevejd - here's our current minimum requirements.

    All volunteer department consisting of 2 companies, 20-30 active members each company. Each company has 2nd lt, 1st lt, captain, deputy chief. 1 Chief for the department. Coverage area of 1.5 sq miles, population ranging from 5000 (winter) to 15,000 (summer) and run about 160-200 calls per year, do not run EMS.

    2nd Lt - at least 3 years active service in company
    NJ State FF1
    Pump Operations
    ICS Level 1

    1st Lt - must have served as 2nd Lt for at least 1 year
    Truck operations

    Captain - must have served as 1st Lt for at least 1 year
    Deputy Chief - must have served as Captain for at least 1 year
    Chief - must have served as Deputy Chief for at least 1 year


    I will agree with you, no system is perfect.

  13. #13
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    Post

    I like the movement through the positions. Currently our Lt's are selected by thier Capt. and approved by the dist. Chief and dept. Chief. But we have had times where someone jumped straight to Captain. Plus the possiblity is there for that to happen with DC and FC positions though I can't remember an incident like that happening.

    I will say that a word of caution we've been concerned with regarding increasing qualifications is that if you must develop/grow a training system that is capable of producing the qualifications you desire or demand from you members. This is something everyone should be aware of as you may have few members that what to immediatly raise the bar to high that you narrow selction pool to much. This could have not only immediate effects but also long term effects on developing your leadership. So we're really monitoring department statics regarding qualifications to insure a good selection pool before we implement any new qualifications. Plus looking a what it takes for individuals to meet them. Putting more and more burden on your members can eventually kill a volunteer department if it isn't managed well. But I believe that is whole new topic.
    Stevejd
    www.lcvfd.com

  14. #14
    iceman4442
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    Lightbulb

    Electing officers can pose problems, but at least in our department, we're far better off electing them rather than having them appointed by a city commission that may not know very much about our business or our personnel.

    We did change our structure a few years ago, we now elect a chief, assistant chief, secretary/treasurer, and the members that serve on our retirement committee. The chief appoints two captains and two lieutenants. He hopefully appoints these officers based on their abilities, knowledge, and leadership skills. Come to think of it, we also elect a member-at-large who doesn't really have very clearly defined duties, but the position has kind of turned into heading up committees that the chief puts together. (We gently refer to him as "The Chief's Gofer.")

    To vote, you must be an active non-probationary member. To stay active, we require not missing any more than three of the 23 regular meetings and training sessions in a calendar year. (There are excused absenses, such as working, out of town on vacation, sick, etc.)

  15. #15
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    Thumbs down Politics

    All of our officers are elected. And everyone votes. We have members show up who have not made a meeting, drill, or run with the station for a year, and they're electing our line officers. Not only do they not have a clue how good an officer someone will be, I don't think they actually care. They're more concerned with 'payback' against someone they feel has slighted them in the past, or helping their 'good buddy' to get elected. And why should they care? They're not the ones who's tails are on the line at emergency scenes. They're not the ones who have to suffer through poorly planned drills. And they're not the ones who will be picking up the slack for officers who don't pull their own weight.

    Amazingly, good sense has prevailed often enough that most of the line officers are worthwhile. But election time is gearing up again, and this one promises to be unpleasant. With a result that is based much more on popularity than competence.

    I think my biggest problem with the system is that elections mean politics. And the politics at my station tend to be nasty. They are divisive and lead to a lot of bad feelings. Not a good thing within a group where cohesion and trust are so essential. Anyone else have this problem?

  16. #16
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    I think this is one of the bigest issues in the volly service.My brigade allows all members to vote unless they are on leave.I have seen in the past those members that never turn up asking the person next to them about who to vote for which can cause an election to swing in the favour of someone who is unsuitable for the job. We have a case at the moment of an officer who lives to far away and often misses the 2nd due appliance so the position is being wasted. It also can create huge divisions in the brigade with people voting in wrong people just to maintain numbers for their "side" in the upper levels of the brigade.
    We used to have a good system of senior firefighters being appointed by the captain so that potential officers could get a run in the senior levels without the problems of being stuck with a dud officer. If those people turned out to be good then they would stand for officers positions later and voters had an idea what they were like. Due to changes to the rules the position has now been given extra power so the position needs to be voted like an officer. Perhaps we need to re-visit a scheme like this so we can see what we are getting ourselves into!
    These are my personal views and not those of my service.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Politics

    Originally posted by LadyFF13

    I think my biggest problem with the system is that elections mean politics. And the politics at my station tend to be nasty. They are divisive and lead to a lot of bad feelings. Not a good thing within a group where cohesion and trust are so essential. Anyone else have this problem?
    Politics do abound in the Fire service but if you take a good look you'll most likely find that politics will be there regardless if positions are appointed or elected. You'll even find politics in paid departments. The big difference for volley departments is that everyone can get involved or is sucked in. That's because these departments are typically small and every member counts.

    Because every member counts is why you as a member must work to make the changes. Which you'll find is one of the toughest jobs in the volunteer service. I've been a big voice in changing our By-laws, and SOP's for years now. What I've discovered is that these types of changes can take years to finally get implemented because sometimes your waiting for a good example or for officers to change to help hammer home the need for adjustment. Ideas that were brought up and discussed years ago are just starting to be placed in our system. It took that long to show people that the particular change could have a postive impact on the department. You might find that some changes don't work as well as anticapated. We changed our nomination and voting procedure a year or so ago. We had to change it again just last month because it left some nominee's off the absentee ballots which isn't fair regardless of thier qualifications for the position.

    The key is to have good debates with fellow members about the changes needed. But you must keep personalities out of it, which is very hard at times. You can't be seen as making a change to a position because currently the person filling that position or a person who would be effected by that change isn't any good or deserving. Sometimes the best way to make a change in a position is when that particular officer is really good but so often we forget about the potential problem because at that moment it isn't a problem. You have find the loop holes and short comings of you rules and fix them prior to them being a problem. You have to look into the future at what scenerio's could happen.

    As much as most people don't like to talk about rules and ethics it's important to point to the Baird case and show everyone that you can and will be held accountable for your actions as a volunteer FF. Now I'm not sure if a policy or rule would have helped in that case but if that department had a policy in place would that have saved that FF's life? You just don't know but I bet they have a policy now.

    Changes can be made it's just a battle that someone must be willing to take on. Yes you will rub some people wrong but if you listen to others and be fair by not being seen a self serving you'll find that people will come around.
    Stevejd
    www.lcvfd.com

  18. #18
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    Default No Voting

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Bones
    [B] How many of your elected officials know squat about fire fighting? Really think they are good judges of a fire chief's abilities? Oh yeah, he has the the qualifications...courses taught in class rooms and paper tests. I would rather have the guys who know how someone is on the fireground deciding who is going to lead them ...

    I can see your point bones. Elected officials probably don't know much or probably anything about firefighting. But what do they know about police departments, public works and all other departments that they control? Probably nothing. That's why they hire people to run these departments. People with experience and training. I know what you mean about the different courses.Nothing beats hands on .But You have to find a balance between the book and real life.
    I said our chief was appointed by council and he appoints the officers. A chief's job is mostly budgets and dealing with various issues. He must be able to step back from the action and get a clear picture of the scene. Many firefighters have trouble doing this.Just because your a good firefighter doesn't mean your a good leader.
    In my post I said that this isn't perfect and it isn't.
    I think it's a better system than voting because there is less back stabbing. How many of you that vote have secret meetings and form groups to have your buddies elected or kick a guy out that you don't like? Has this negative activity everybeen carried out to the fireground? How many good firefighters have quit because of this?
    In a number of posts members said that people who never show up to calls or drills are voting.How much do these guys know about fire fighting or whats been going on to vote for an officer? It sounds to me like a club instead of a fire department.

  19. #19
    Forum Member jmkfire's Avatar
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    Default The bad side of voting!

    Our officers are elected every year by the membership. The last two elections are proof of the politics. Our Chief (for the last 2 years) is the mayor's son. He just turned 21 this year! Somehow he has found enough ways to get the votes he needs to stay Chief. Last time by 1 vote! Needless to say he has never recieved mine. His inexperience is dangerous on every call. That inexperience is finally showing up to those he blinded for votes. For example: Goes into, an unoccupied(confirmed)structure full of smoke and with some fire, by himself with no turnout gear or SCBA on! Unfortunately I was grabbing the hydrant or I would have stopped him doing that. With him being the Chief, disaplinary action must come from the city council. There is the problem; daddy's the mayor and the rest of the council thinks he is just a wonderful guy. What are we to do? When he gives an order most of the guys will look at me and ask what do you want us to do? Command structure should not work like that, but in our case he has made some awefull calls in the past and a lot of the guys don't listen to him because they're worried he might get them killed.
    Am I wrong for suggesting to my guys a way to accomplish the task in a safe manner that is different than the Chiefs approach (gotta charge in and hurry up to get wet on red regardless) Elections will not be held again till March 2003. What am I to do? I want everyone to go home after the call the same way they showed up!
    Stay Safe!!!!!!!!!!

    "Just remember. No matter where you go. There you are!"

  20. #20
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    Default

    Thanks to all that have posted on this thread so far. The experience from many different views will help us to make some informed decisions on things like the voting issues. We are relatively new at the politcal mess of this, but I see from you all that it is something that we will learn to deal with.

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