1. #1
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    Default Why be an officer if you don't want to be chief?

    why would someone serve as a asst. chief or deputy chief if they wouldn't want to be chief of the department in a few years? This would primarily apply to volunteer departments, but i would imagine could apply to career FFs as well.

    The reason I ask is because I know two FFs, both with 10+ years experience, who served as Assistant Chief's of their department (as well as the lower ranks), but never even attempted to run for the position of Chief. One even served as the acting Chief for a few months while the Chief was unable to, but when it came time for the elections, he didn't want to run for the position.

    now, I can't understand why someone would spend all those years in the roles as Lts, Capt, and chief officers, but when it comes to the 5 bugles, wouldn't even want to try to be the Chief
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    I have no personal experience to offer a thought or two, but from observation (based on my old station only) is that to be Chief is to take and accept full responsibility not only for your staff, but for all administration and the unit operations, which includes budgets and all that other stuff that some people are not good at.

    From my observations, a person is often capable of great things, as long as he/she is not directly in the lime light. So as D/C or Asst C, a person can still remain somewhat in the background and still achieve great things within and for the Dept. But as soon as the 'Big Hat' is on the head, the stress becomes too much.

    Not sure if that made any sense, I hope so. I never aspired to be Chief, but was quite content with a Captaincy position.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrParasite
    why would someone serve as a asst. chief or deputy chief if they wouldn't want to be chief of the department in a few years? This would primarily apply to volunteer departments, but i would imagine could apply to career FFs as well.

    now, I can't understand why someone would spend all those years in the roles as Lts, Capt, and chief officers, but when it comes to the 5 bugles, wouldn't even want to try to be the Chief

    I dunno--maybe there are folks out there who aren't driven by ambition and are happy with their current lot in life?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jvencius
    I dunno--maybe there are folks out there who aren't driven by ambition and are happy with their current lot in life?
    Exactly. Duh. Maybe they enjoy the role and responsibility of being a Lt, Captain, of DC and are perfectly happy not being the head chief in charge. You know, it isn't all about moving up in rank.
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    They dont want the Polotics or the BS that comes with being Chief, atleast thats what i have noticed in my department.
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    Well, to be honest, there are two reasons why I am happy to serve as a Dept. Captain, but have no ambition to run for Chief.

    Firstly, I enjoy the mid level management position, get to be in charge of an engine or company and yet still get to go inside and get my hands dirty if you know what I mean.

    Secondly, and this only applies to the non-career departments, once your Chief, at least on our dept., you have to be re-elected every two years. If you lose your position, then it's back to the rank of FF. As an appointed officer, well your golden unless you screw up big time.

    I aspire to be an Assistant Chief, but you can save the 5 bugles for someone else.

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    In my department, we have a Chief, Assistant Chief, and 2 Deputy Chiefs, along with Captains and Lt's. The Captains have the pleasure of doing the most work as they run each company. They are responsible for purchasing, training, attendance, equipment, etc. The Chief is in charge of fires and making sure the Captains are doing their jobs.

    Take, for example, a structure fire response. Chief will be out front as IC. Asst. Chief will be in rear. Deputy Chiefs will usually be inside as operations command. Captains will be with their team they entered with, as will Lt's.

    I've been all the way through the line and believe me, being the Chief out front commanding was fine, but I'd rather be inside with the troops working.


    Your department setup may be different and may have different responsibilities.
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    Maybe the the officer isn't ready to be moved up. Perhaps they don't want that responsibility. Or they might enjoy their current roll as a Lieutentant. Maybe they want to stay the Lt on an engine company so they can go interior and have fun instead of sitting outside in the command position.

    Being the chief has it's high points, but it's not for everyone. Why push them to be in charge when they don't want to? Wouldn't that make a poor chief?
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    Smile There is something to be said for #2

    Having been the second-in-command in organizations other than the fire department, I can tell you that there are many perks. When you're second-in-command, you have much of the authority afforded to the big boss, but without as much responsibility. Many times, this means that you can get more done without having to jump through as many hoops.

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    In my dept., it's pretty much an 8 year committment.

    Assuming all goes well with yourself and those in office ahead of you -- you get elected 3rd ***'t Chief, then after 2 years, elected to 2nd, then after 2 years, elected to 1st, and then after 2 years, elected Chief. But, to even get to the 3rd ***'t position, you have to have served two years as a captain and then also have several "certifications" to "qualify" (and I use that term loosely as it is a firehouse election).
    Last edited by DianeC; 08-16-2005 at 03:37 PM.
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    IMHO, if you have multiple Deputy/Asst Chief positions, and a member who is doing a good job and content to stay there, then there is no big problem. However if you have only one or two of those positions, how is the Chief supposed to train someone for succession?

    The problem I see with many small VFD's is that the Chief either doesn't have the foresight or energy to put into training his eventual replacement, and therefore when that day comes (either for natural or unnatural reasons), the dept is left scrambling to rebound, and the incoming Chief may take the heat for the apparent disorganization. I was lucky in that when I took over as Chief, I had a pretty good handle on things provided by my predecessor (with a few minor exceptions). That is not always the case however.

    Even if you plan to be Chief for 20 years, you should have your replacement ready. If the next in line for a lone Deputy position does not want that responsibility some day, they should stay among the line officers.

    And to clarify, I have no problem with a line officer holding thier position almost indefinitely. If things had never changed around here, I would have loved to live as a Captain forever. No stress, and still get the shiny red hat.
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    It's not all about shiny nameplates, bright white hats, and flashy titles. Some people just enjoy mid-level leadership positions. We have two former chiefs(from before we switched to a career chief), both of whom who have served as assistant chiefs, and have now on their own accord and much to the protest of the department due to their fine leadership, downgraded themselves to regular line firefighters. One of these two men is my father. Why? Because, as my father says, "I'm a firefighter. I do this because I like helping people. I like interacting with them, and with my fellow firefighters. You can't do that as much from the back of a Ford Explorer with a white hat and portable". I found much of the same answer from the other former chief in our department.

    I was promoted to Captain this January. I accepted it because the chief told me that the consensus of the department's senior leadership was that I was the best candidate for it. There are times now I wish I wouldn't have taken it, though. Riding front seat is a lot of responsibility, and a lot less 'fun'. All too many times have we crested that hill, to see the plume, or hear the 'confirmed entrapment' size-up over the radio have I wished to be facing the back wall of the cab. Instead, you're looking forward, and have a different job to do. More often now adays, I find myself doing things such as safety, interior operations, or second man on the line showing newer guys the ropes. I could easily snatch the line off of them, but I have a vision, based on what I've seen and been taught, on what a captain has supposed to do and how they're supposed to act, and I try to fulfill that.

    Not everyone likes being in those positions. Some people love them so much they don't want to be elevated to, what at least is in my department, a primarily administrative job, complete with fire inspections, code enforcement, and fire drills at all of the public buildings once a month. Our chief only comes out for 'major calls'. Structures, entrapments, hazmats, etc. Not everyone wants that type of job. Nothing to attack or criticize them for. That's just how they work.


    Now, personally, I'm not sure if I want to be a chief or not. Have to see where my career leads me
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    Speaking from the perspective of a paid department:

    There are many reasons why someone would want to be an officer without being the chief. Perhaps the person has a check on their ego and doesn't need the bugles to realize that he made a difference in the lives of people.

    Other reasons:

    1. Not politically astute.
    2. Realizes that the job is the end of the line.
    3. Likes to actually be involved in suppression.
    4. Didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    I could go on but its fairly clear.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpartanGuy
    Now, personally, I'm not sure if I want to be a chief or not.
    That's about the way I feel about it too. I will not be ready to think about that for YEARS! I like being Lieutenant because I like to get to work with everyone. Rarely, unless it's through the day, do I have to worry about being the OIC. Not that being the OIC is a bad thing, it's a good experience but I still prefer fighting fire, being the one with the jaws, or whatever else the situation at hand may require. I do like to try to be a leader, and I like to hold drill because I love to learn myself and I love to see people learning...so as Lt. I can do those things without some of the Chief's headaches from say, dealing with the Mayor. I share in her headaches as the Secretary, but then we get a call and I go back to being Lt. and it's like a big sigh of relief. I'd like to run for Capt. someday, but that day is not today, or next week, or next year...
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    In our department the Asst. Chiefs have specific job descriptions One is in charge of equipment and apparatus the other training and safety.

    Over the years some have been reluctant to climb the ladder because they were proficient and secure in their positions and were quite comfortable where they were.

    However I believe competition is good and it would be nice to see the chief have competition during the election to keep him on his toes and to keep those wanting to be Chief sharp and prepared.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcaldwell
    The problem I see with many small VFD's is that the Chief either doesn't have the foresight or energy to put into training his eventual replacement, and therefore when that day comes (either for natural or unnatural reasons), the dept is left scrambling to rebound, and the incoming Chief may take the heat for the apparent disorganization. I was lucky in that when I took over as Chief, I had a pretty good handle on things provided by my predecessor (with a few minor exceptions). That is not always the case however.
    actually, I meant being the AC, DC, and BC position. I can definately understand staying at the line officer status, but it was the whole lower level chief officers that confused me.

    and it was for this reason, because if you are going to have a white helmet, aren't you getting ready for your time at head of the department? why would you put in all those years, rise to the ranks of AC, and not take that final step?
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    Maybe because they are tired of all the bullsh&* by the time they work their way up through the ranks..I deal with chiefs every day through my business and while most of them love commanding fires & progressing the dept., there is a tremendous amount of BS to put up with running the day to day operations, be it a volunteer or career dept. (albeit they both have their own "unique" challenges)...their Nextels are constantly chirping with "Uh Chief, Joey so & so just backed Engine 1 into the bay door, we're outta toilet paper, uh where's that paperwork the district needed a week ago, uh Susie Q just stormed off the ambulance 'cause Larry the Lt. yelled at her"...UYYY...

    Most chiefs I know (thru business or as friends) say they love being a chief for the most part but it's the everyday nonsense that drives them crazy. Many guys when they were at the company level as an officer had to handle maybe 20-25 personalities, now you've got to handle maybe 50 and up to 200...my chief used to say "I've got to manage 80 personalities to get ONE job done..the one we are here to do"...

    The politics often play a role as well..I'm sure we could start a thread with several hundred replies titled "Tell us your craziest politically motivated BS story in your dept."...man, wouldn't that be a gem??? I know of two guys in my company from a former dept. who were chief/asst. chief together back in the 80's...great guys, VERY knowledgeable, well respected & down to earth...but they BOTH resigned at the same time mid term because the political BS with the commissioners (also FF's..they serve as trustees of the fire district) trying to run the firematic operations of the dept.

    And lastly, you never know the guy's (or girl's...plenty of lady chiefs these days) situation at home...divorce (often due to the FD... ), bills piling up, sick family member, job transfer, etc. so unless you can get in the person's head, you may not know exactly what their motivation for not running is. Not to worry though...when everyone hears there is a spot opening up, there will be PLENTY of people lining up...happens around here plenty of times.

    Jus my 2 cents...Stay Safe...

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    Cool at the top

    Once at the top where are you going to go? If your at the top who do you point the finger at or blame? If it can flow down hill someone may decide to kick it back up the hill. Here it is an appointive position and the City Council can fire you at their pleasure. Ever seen the grey hair multiply once your at the top? Got lots of antacids? Enjoy making appearances, meeting the irate citizenry, answering for everything right or wrong, just enjoy power, attending meetings and more meetings, deciding what will make you look good, and if you really like it are you really making a difference for the better? Just because you are at the top doesn't necessarily mean it is all coasting down hill with money and prestige. Sometimes in the middle or just where you are is good enough.

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    Sometiems the lower people arent qualified to be the chief. We have a FT Chief....need to have a college degree, I dont have one. Need to be a Fire Instructor.........thats not me yet, as I am an Asst Instuctor, taking that class in the fall. Those are the 2 big ones I can recall, I have all sorts of other training and experience, but technically cant be the Chief and I am the only Asst. Chief our command structure calls for, for almost the last 8 years.
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    The only thing I can think of is they are not ready/or they feel they are not ready for all the responsibilities as Chief. I am not saying Asst. Chiefs etc etc do not have responsibilities - they do, but the food chain ends with the Chief. As an Asst. Chief your not in total control or have all the responsibilities on your back

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrParasite
    why would someone serve as a asst. chief or deputy chief if they wouldn't want to be chief of the department in a few years? This would primarily apply to volunteer departments, but i would imagine could apply to career FFs as well.

    The reason I ask is because I know two FFs, both with 10+ years experience, who served as Assistant Chief's of their department (as well as the lower ranks), but never even attempted to run for the position of Chief. One even served as the acting Chief for a few months while the Chief was unable to, but when it came time for the elections, he didn't want to run for the position.

    now, I can't understand why someone would spend all those years in the roles as Lts, Capt, and chief officers, but when it comes to the 5 bugles, wouldn't even want to try to be the Chief
    If I'm lucky enough to make Capt. I plan on staying one. I want nothing to do with any of the bull**** Chiefs have to deal with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jvencius
    I dunno--maybe there are folks out there who aren't driven by ambition and are happy with their current lot in life?
    I'd say you really missed the nail on that one. Just because someone doesn't want to be a Chief......it doesn't mean they aren't driven by ambition.

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    Sometimes, people doubt themselves, and just don't feel like they can handle it. Case in point, from a fire dept. experience, we have a couple members who can seemingly do "anything", just as long as they can look over their shoulder, and see your assurance behind them. In my business, the same thing applies. I'm always puzzled to think about why they feel like that. I have full confidence in their experience and abilities, but somehow, they don't see it.

    That said, fire dept. or business, as mentioned above, these people are a huge assett to the organization in their current position, and can stay there forever if they want. The only time it is a problem is when the chief wants to get done. We have 1 assistant only, so someone has to skip from cap to chief. That's what happened to me. I eventually wanted to run for chief, but 5 or more years as assistant would have been nice. Our former chief had been in office for 11teen years, and was just plain getting done, no matter what. After years trying to get the assistant to step up, we had no choice but to go with the next in line.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KCrescue1
    I'd say you really missed the nail on that one. Just because someone doesn't want to be a Chief......it doesn't mean they aren't driven by ambition.

    Ah, maybe a poor choice of words. I've worked with folks who made it abundantly clear that either they were going to become a General some day (I'm active Air Farce for another 1 1/2 weeks) or somehow their life just wouldn't be complete. As if somehow making it to Maj/LtCol/Col wouldn't be enough, they had to wear a star or in their eyes, making a lesser rank would seem like a failure... I'm not exactly sure how to phrase the ideas swirling around in my head on that topic, but I draw a parallel betweeen those kind of folks and other folks who are ambitious for self-serving reasons and not for the good of the country/fire service.

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    Default Not being the Chief??? Whats the difference?

    I have no aspirations to be the "Chief of Department" at my station, but plan on running for Asst. or Deputy in the next few years. I have no desire to deal with the administrative aspect of the job, I just want the command experience. Our Asst. and Deputy Chief's run the Firehouse and the Fires and the Chief runs the Admin. He still runs alot of calls because he works 24/72 schedule with the DCFD, but he also is heavily involved in the Maryland Fire Chiefs, MSFA, PGCVFRA and other organizations. He has a full plate and I know there are many a missed meal at his place. Our Cheif is also an excellent command officer whom I would follow through hell.
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