Top Posts & Pages
March 2019 M T W T F S S « Jan 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
In 2019, I will see some newly elected officials that I am very happy to see coming into power to serve the citizens of Prince George’s County. While I greatly appreciated the Council that confirmed me as Fire Chief in 2009, the incoming Council is really special because I have worked with some of them in previous jobs and various other capacities.
Rodney Streeter, Council Vice Chair, Thomas Dernoga, District 1, Calvin Hawkins, At-Large, Jolene Ivey, District 5
Thomas Dernoga, Council Member represents the District I live in and he is serving in his third term. I know him to be quite a caring representative and he supported me during my stint as Fire Chief of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. I look forward to working with him in the district. He is a ardent supporter of the Fire/EMS Department and of Public Safety.
Calvin Hawkins, Council Member At-Large is truly a man of the people. While working with him in the Department of Homeland Security I got to see him work on behalf of the citizens of Prince George’s County in a way that I have not seen from another person. Seeing him rise to Council Member At-Large is a fitting mantle because I saw him help citizens everywhere throughout the County. His extraordinary ability to relate to people from all walks of life reminds me of another powerful official in the District of Columbia where I grew up. From what I have seen of Council Member Hawkins’ life it would not surprise me in the least to see him rise to the very top in the future. Council Member Hawkins has met every prediction that I have had about him so I am really interested to see the path he takes in the future.
Jolene Ivey, Council Member, is very impressive in her own right. She and her family are unbelievable in their achievements and I am always amazed by her. I feel fortunate to have met her and worked with her campaigns and endeavors. I have worked with many powerful people in my career and I know Council Member Ivey is a force for good in Prince George’s County. She connects well with people and is very attentive to her constituents needs. I am very glad to see her living her dreams and her continued success.
Rodney Streeter, Council Vice Chair, always has taken the time to talk to me whether I was in Prince George’s County or in the District of Columbia. Like each of the Council Members I have written about I can see why the people chose him to represent them. When I have spoken to him in the past he always shows himself as a Statesman. I am very glad to see him get his turn at the reins of power on the Council.
I must say this County Council has the most impressive group of individuals I have had the pleasure to work with. I have not worked directly with the other members of the Council but I have heard others speak of their work. Outgoing Chair Dannielle Glaros is another supporter of the Fire/EMS Department. I have not met her but heard of her advocacy for the fire companies in her District and she has been impressive on their behalf.
In 2019, I will be writing a lot about the Council because this group of Council Members feel a little special to me. Having spent all my career in the Executive Branch I was not able to spend quality time with the previous Councilmembers. This time I will venture to be more aware of the actions of the Council. I attended the December 3, 2018, Gavel Exchange ceremony in the Council Hearing Room and I got to congratulate Todd Turner, Council Chair. I was heartened to hear County Executive Angela Alsobrooks address the Council and meet briefly Councilmembers Taveras, Davis, Anderson-Walker, Harrison. I felt fortunate to be able to see Council Member Deni Taveras speak on a previous PSFM fire department issue (Cadet Program) and her kind concern and advocacy for the citizens and residents of her District’s participation in the Fire/EMS Department was truly remarkable to me. Of course I have great concern for the health and well-being of the citizens and residents of Prince George’s County and I want them to have every opportunity to participate in a great public service organization.
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department is one of largest and best combination fire and emergency medical services in the nation and I am committed to supporting every citizen and resident that wants to be a part of the Department. So if you see me at an event being held by the Council you know I am there to advocate for opportunities for the people of Prince George’s County to participate in a service that has provided for me for 30 years.
While volunteers command much of the nations fire service, in highly populated areas they are losing ground to more politically savvy organized labor operations. We have all heard the saying “Nature Abhors a Vacuum”. This commonly used phrase I feel is aptly applied to the volunteers because they are acutely absent from the political system and the communities they serve. Clearly, volunteers decided long ago that they, out of necessity should avoid the politics of supporting political candidates. Having never been a volunteer I cannot articulate why that strategy was adopted. In the case of Prince George’s County and the surrounding metropolitan area (densely populated jurisdictions) this strategy is a grossly under performing strategy and has meant the death of the once thriving volunteer systems.
Paid employees have been able to project the eventual death of the volunteers and have successfully encouraged citizens to pay for fire and emergency medical protections that is free across the nation. Of course I love the paid service and have benefitted greatly from serving as a paid fire fighter. But I am concerned that the community is losing out on some key benefits of having strong volunteer organizations. First and foremost during disasters and emergencies communities that do not have trained citizens have to wait for life saving services that they can do themselves if they were trained. Whole families are killed because they do not know the value of a working smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, sprinkler systems and other technologies that can keep them safe. Paid fire fighters in this area run an extreme amount of emergencies and calls for service. This area boasts the busiest fire and emergency medical service departments in the County and the world. There is little time to do high quality public education however. Statistics show that citizens die at a higher rate and number in these urban areas than in the more rural areas. Clearly it is because citizens in rural areas participate in their fire and emergency management departments and thus their knowledge base on, what to do in, and how to avoid, emergencies and disasters is higher.
Yes, we are in “the government and we are here to help” is vital to stopping the spread of fire and the cascading effects of disasters and emergencies, however, how sad is it when millions of people in these densely populated areas rely on government to do everything for them when disaster strikes.
Who can forget the citizens of New Orleans crammed in and around the Superdome waiting for the government to help them. Yet everyday in rural areas we see neighbors helping neighbors and rebuilding their community almost immediately after the disasters are over. I contend that the death of a healthy volunteer system leads to more reliance on government and the death of community institutions that teach volunteerism in all aspects of life. Prince George’s County still has the opportunity to save its volunteer corporations. Unlike Pennsylvania where they are just responding to the volunteer crisis in their state, it appears that elected officials are starting to act to save these vital institutions. The cancer presumption bill and volunteer death benefits are huge steps in the right direction for Prince George’s County. Mary Lehman, Councilmember and other Councilmembers on the Public Safety Fiscal Management Committee seem to understand that there is a growing crisis in our volunteer system. Unfortunately, the County is not investing in helping the corporations recruit local youth to the volunteer companies. All the knowledge on how to respond to disasters and emergencies will fade from the minds of the citizens if the County allows the volunteer organizations to die as they have been dying in the past eight years.
It is incredible how the volunteers have allowed themselves to be shut out of the political process which is the life blood of all institutions in any jurisdiction. Now the volunteers are crying about how they are being treated rather than engaging the system that has welcomed their participation for the past hundred years. Clearly since Charter Executives used to set aside sizeable parts of the budget to assist volunteer corporations in the County. The volunteers took the support for granted and were out maneuvered by paid employees since the volunteers left their seat at the table vacant. Now those dollars, once control by volunteers, which reached eleven million per budget year, is in the hands of paid employees. As a direct result more volunteer companies have failed and are failing to get out on calls everyday. To the County’s credit 200 more paid personnel have been added to the Department in the past eight years. However, while the budget of the Fire Department balloons volunteer companies are dying. Well now, we see decreased investment and support for volunteers – dying volunteer companies. More paid personnel (good idea) but less citizen involvement in the community and more reliance on government. Everyday there is not enough ambulances, longer response times thus a lower quality of care for the public. Let’s not even contemplate how citizens will fare in disasters. That will be an article for another day. Not to only highlight the Prince George’s County, the large jurisdictions, Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Washington D.C., Fairfax County and others have long dropped their support for volunteer corporations and exclusively tax their citizens to literal death in order to pay for fire and emergency medical services.
Volunteers need to open their doors to the community and invite the community in. They need to stop whining about how they no longer know how to speak to the community or the next generation and get it done. We put the energy into things we care about and as Americans we have always figured out how to solve our problems. In the end, if you want your volunteer corporation to vanish then keep doing what you are doing volunteers. Keep talking about how hard it is and how no one appreciates you. Stay out of the political fray and let your portion of the budget go to another group. Citizens, keep letting government solve your fire and emergency medical problem. Keep your children from the reward of public service and the character building nature that comes from serving others. Politicians keep neglecting your volunteer companies so you can devote more and more tax dollars to paying for fire and emergency medical services. Words matter as we are finding out in this iteration of federal politics. Like it or not your silence on the growing crisis of failing volunteer fire departments is going to cost all of us a lot of treasure that does not go into educating and preparing the next generation for the future. If you watched the video you will see that volunteers have no idea how to communicate with the next generation. Sad when you think about what that portends for the future of our community.
In my new life (second time around) as a retiree I get to see life in a whole new way. I consider my new employer (Everyday Life) as an adventure because I see things I didn’t notice before when I was working. I have spent most of my retired time volunteering for the Prince George’s County Police and Morningside Volunteer Fire Department.
As a citizen, with time on my hands, I have learned more about the Constitution of the United States than I ever thought I would. In the work world I focused on the policies and procedures of the local governments that employed me. Most of my time with the Constitution dealt Equal Employment Law. I never thought much about “government intrusion” into our lives because as a representative of the government I saw into the private lives of those I served in the most intimate way possible. I had to touch people (with their consent of course) while providing EMS care, and I regularly entered their homes, places of employment and asked them things about their health information that most people had no access to. Government was good. I loved government and I trusted that the people I served with served with the highest of integrity and ethics.
Being on the other side I now see the intrusiveness of government and the dark side of those who want to take away the property rights and freedoms of citizens in a way that I never saw before. I see the same people I served with think nothing of depriving someone of their inalienable rights and get mad when you point out to them that they don’t have the power to do what they are attempting to do.
During this part of my adventure I am meeting people who are simply awesome. While I proudly served with other government workers and had the opportunity to recognize them for their dedication, hard work, valor and acts of kindness, I have gained a deeper respect for the volunteers and citizens who represent the communities they serve. On the Citizen Advisory Councils I served on I saw people who devote their lives to making sure their community is respected and represented. I got to see two very professional and caring P
olice Chiefs as they met with citizens to ensure their agency was responsive to the needs of those they served. I am truly thankful that I got to see those two Chiefs in a different light. Sure, I worked with many Police Chiefs but seeing them as a citizen, I can say Prince George’s County has had two awesome Chiefs in a row, Chief Mark Magaw (now Public Safety Director) and Chief Hank Stawinsky. Two men who have to make the Constitution of the United States an everyday discussion to every citizen’s understanding. Every citizen should get a chance to hear directly from their police chief, especially these men.
The volunteers I now serve and serve with are awesome young people who know nothing else but a life of service. I am amazed at how they think nothing of going into dangerous situations for free. (I am sorry but I never heard of volunteer fire and EMS personnel when I grew up. I grew up in the District of Columbia and the volunteer service was long gone when I met the first fire fighters in my community). The long lineage of service, buying fire apparatus, tools, equipment and ambulances is something they (volunteers) want to do. Equipping themselves just to have an opportunity to serve. The Prince George’s County Government is taking on new initiatives to make sure these volunteers have up to date health care. Legislation is making its way through the Council processes to become law, hopefully. Seeing the Constitution in action at this stage in my life is very gratifying. I hope everyone can learn to respect the rights of others and the private individual corporations that work everyday to make the place we live, work and play enjoyable.
Ask the everyday chief level officer what the Fire Chief’s job is and they can’t tell you. They know it’s a rank or two or three above them but that’s all they know. Most of them have no idea how to prepare for the top spot. Go to any gallery of pictures of the “Chiefs” and you will see a few pictures over many years. Many speculate on how this one or that one got there as they observe the pictures but in the end they know they will never see their own face up there.
It’s not a secret on how to get to the top it’s just hard work and dedication. It has all to do with knowing your craft better than anyone else in the organization. It’s about being one of the best communicators in the service. It’s about those who matter seeing that you are the one. As President Trump fills his cabinet we see some of the same people who have served the Country well for years being given another opportunity to serve at the top of the Agency/Department. They are the best and brightest in the business. Whether Democrat or Republican their peers agree that the nominee is a top-notch professional and a high achievers.
Instead of spending your time in the peanut gallery with those who (secretly) bemoan the fact that they will never amount to anything in the organization or the service, focus on your own career. No one has ever been promoted because they were the most vocal critic or writes the best Facebook post on why the Chief is an idiot. It gets a few laughs but in the end people are taking notes on how foolish is the one who spends their time criticizing others while they themselves achieve nothing. I run into people all the time who wish they had worked harder at promoting up through the ranks. I listen to people who wish their retirement checks were bigger if they had only studied for that next promotion.
Not everyone wants to be Chief, nor can they be. Everyone has their place in the service and can serve just as honorably as any chief level officer. But this article is not for them. This article is for the people who in their heart believe that they can contribute to the service in a manner that only a few can achieve. Keep striving and keep climbing. Seek out those who have held the position and ask them how they got to the top. I interviewed many chief level officers as I rose through the ranks. I learned about the principles and practices of being a successful chief officer. I served among the best and learned their ways. Even today those Chiefs are among the most influential men in the Fire Service.
Consider what President Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.