I retired from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, Florida in 2007 at the rank of District Chief. I came into the service in 1976, joining Del-Trail Fire Control District Nine in Palm Beach County, Florida. Del-Trail and other Fire Control departments merged in 1984 to form Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue. I worked my way through the ranks, first as a rookie firefighter, then as a driver operator, then
station officer as a lieutenant and captain, and finally district chief. I was also an EMT and
rode on a rescue truck in my early years.
2. What is your favorite part of working for your department?
I was fortunate to work with some of the best people in the business. That was the most satisfying aspect of my job. Working for a large department afforded me opportunities that may not have been as accessible if I had worked for a smaller department. For instance, I worked as a subject matter expert for a number of departments that were giving promotional exams including the City of Columbus,
Ohio and the District of Columbia Fire Department in Washington DC as well as many departments within the state of Florida. I was also able to pursue my education, including successfully completing the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.
3. How do you define success?
The short answer is being able to successfully achieve personal and professional goals. I’m sure success can be defined differently for each individual, but for me success was being able give 100 percent to a demanding career, but not at the exclusion of family and friends.
4. What have you learned over your lifetime that you'd like to share with the younger generation?
Pursue your passion and be creative. Don’t relegate yourself to a life of punching a clock to pay the bills. To folks who are interested in a fire service profession, don’t ever forget that you are joining a brotherhood/sisterhood that demands professionalism and expertise at all levels. Never stop learning.
5. What is your favorite hobby?
I have a number of interests, including beekeeping, cooking, gardening, reading, writing, long walks in the woods, and traveling. My wife and I love to cruise to different parts of the world and learn about cultures different from our own.
6. Who has had the greatest influence on you? At an early age, my parents, and as I grew older, a succession of great teachers, not only in an academic setting but within the fire service.
7. What will be your legacy? Is the world better because of you, your work, and your influence?
I’m sure the fire department benefited in some way from my tenure. I spent a good deal of time teaching firefighters and mentoring young officers, and I hope that has a lasting effect on the future leaders of the department. Now, I work part-time at a local high school as a substitute teacher and this gives me an opportunity to interact with teenagers who sometimes need an adult who is non-judgmental. I know my day has been a success if I can challenge students to think, and act, beyond their normal frame of reference.
8. What's the funniest work story/event you remember?
There are many, some I can’t repeat, but one that comes to mind occurred at The Ott House Pub in Emmitsburg, MD. I was taking a class at the National Fire Academy and some of my classmates and I walked down to the pub one evening to get off campus and socialize. The pub was hosting a local high school reunion and there was a place to sign in and grab a name tag if you were part of that reunion. I dared one of my classmates to sign in and grab a name tag—she happened to be about the same age as the reunion folks. I suggested that she
approach a guy who looked like he was there alone and let him know that he was the long lost father of her teenage daughter. She did, and the guy almost fainted on the spot. Firefighters know how to have fun.
9. Is there anything I haven't asked about that you would care to comment on?
I came from a department where money was never an issue. We always had adequate staffing and equipment. I now volunteer as a firefighter in rural Tennessee which has given me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the constant struggle for funding volunteer companies deal with year in and year out. It’s my hope this forum will reach and better educate decision makers about
the need for adequate funding in communities that rely on volunteer firefighters.
10. What is your favorite dinner & what do you drink with it?
I love all kinds of food, but I’m always happiest to sit down with my wife and a few close friends and eat pasta aglio e olio or some other rustic Italian dish with a salad, garlic bread, and red wine. Sharing food and good conversation with friends is one of life’s simple pleasures.
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