Estimated 19 min reading time.
Welcome to the USFA Podcast. I’m your host, Teresa Neal. In 2019, the National Academy of Public Administration issued a call to all government professionals to address the grand challenges facing our nation. In response, an ad hoc group of local government professionals around the country started meeting to develop actionable projects.
A coalition of these professionals joined by more than 25 professional associations took the next step by convening a meeting in November 2022 at the University of Nebraska Omaha. At the meeting, the group identified 3 actionable initiatives to work on during 2023: Grow a resilient workforce — the art of public service, the communication continuum and promised pathways.
When we learned about their initiatives, we could definitely see how they aligned with the fire service national strategy laid out at the 2022 U.S. Fire Administrator Summit on Fire Prevention and Control. If you haven’t heard about the national strategy, there are 6 strategies that the fire service leaders and researchers have chosen to speak with 1 voice.
These strategies are to prepare all firefighters for the climate-driven increase in wildfires in the wildland urban interface by providing them with the proper training and equipment, invest in the National Apprenticeship Program to address the shortage of firefighters, and to make the fire service more diverse and inclusive.
Establish a comprehensive firefighter cancer registry that invests in research, provides access to screening for firefighters, and reduces and eliminates PFAS exposure. Provide behavioral health resources and suicide prevention initiatives for all firefighters. Create safer communities by implementing and enforcing codes and standards, especially in the WUI and underserved and vulnerable populations, providing affordable and fire-safe housing, and elevate the fire service and federal policy development to an equal basis with law enforcement.
So, to discuss how the Local Government 2030 and how their initiatives align with the fire service national strategy, we’re joined by Trevor Hogan, captain of Rockford Fire Department in Rockford, Illinois; Mark Scott, captain and accreditation manager for Hickory Fire Department, Hickory, North Carolina; and Marcus Haynes, firefighter paramedic from Phoenix Fire Department in Phoenix, Arizona.
So, thank you all for joining us today. Can you tell me why you were interested in joining Local Government 2030?
Yeah, this is Trevor. I’ll start. This was something that was brought to my attention from a prior chief of mine, Chief Bersen of the Pouter Fire Authority out in Fort Collins, Colorado, also very involved in the Center for Public Safety Excellence work and organization.
And he mentioned this to me, that this was available, an opportunity to go after, to apply for. It was a process that we had to go through, and it looked like something I was interested in. You had to be under 40 to apply and kind of an upcoming leader and I was right at that mark, and I knew that I had 10 years left in my career.
And this looked like a good opportunity to influence some change for not only just for the fire service, but for local government in general and really get to know what local government is all about on a very high level and get to know more information about what other local government agencies are doing.
So, that’s kind of my story.
Marcus or Mark, why were you interested in joining Local Government 2030?
Yes, so I had a similar approach, coming from the CPSE Accreditation Model and understanding what all is involved with that, and they released a 21st century white paper a little while back that kind of outlined some of the same grand challenges that came out of the Administrator’s Summit. And reading through the NAPA Grand Challenges, it was interesting to see how all those pathways kind of aligned, and it’s easy to sit back and outline all of the grand challenges we faced in — in the fire service and in local government, but to kind of outline a plan and be a part of something bigger and to be a part of it and impact and effect change.
For me, it’s some of the similar things that Mark and Trevor said. I moved in from an operation position to an administrative position, where we are building a section to look at the whole Phoenix Fire Department from operations to our civilian workforce and putting strategies in place to weather potential or future issues that were trending.
With that, with some of the schooling I was doing, I was very interested in local 2030 because everything is connected. So, then I like to think about how things nationally or internationally affect us here in the city, which then turns and affects us here in the fire service. And since I am a public servant at heart, this was an opportunity to be able to be around like-minded, diverse individuals and express how important or what the function of the fire service is today and what it could look like in the future.
Great. So, you had a conference, I guess, or a meeting where you all came together. What have you learned?
I would say that I learned there’s a lot of similarities going on throughout the nation that are going on in my hometown, which is Rockford. But at the same time, I learned that there is a lot of great people out there, young people out there that are, again, upcoming leaders in local government and are ready to influence change and go after some big problems and tackle some big problems and do it for the greater good.
So — and it was a great opportunity to network with people and get to know people from all over and make new friends. And so, it’s been great in that sense. And the work that we’re doing now, like when we met in last November during our convening, that was basically just the beginning and we have a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re still putting in the time to accomplish what we need to accomplish.
I’m sure we’ll get into it a little bit further, but it’s, uh, we still ourselves have a lot to learn and kind of figure it out, what, you know, what the deliverable product that we’re coming out with is still unwritten and we’re still working towards that. But either way, just great to hear from different perspectives from across the nation.
Yeah, so even like before the convening itself, the delegates were split up into 7 groups based off of their discipline. So, prior to the convening itself, the Public Safety and Human Services Group worked to produce a white paper, a pretty lengthy one at that, and it’s available on Local Government 2030 website.
But just a key take away from me long before the convening ever actually took place in Omaha was the, like Trevor said, some of the diverse elements throughout public safety and human services, but also looking at public health and the social services side of the house, we’ve never really considered them part of public safety.
And we define public safety as typically fire, EMS, law enforcement, telecommunicators, those type fields. But the pandemic really kind of transitioned the public health and those social services-type roles and those departments and kind of lumped them in under what we would traditionally see as public safety.
Yeah, it’s something that we always say in community risk reduction is that it’s never just the fire department, it’s everybody who touches a person. And so, it’s the whole — you know, FEMA has the whole community perspective, and it’s really like the whole of everybody who’s touching the individuals in the community and how they can work together instead of being so siloed into — which is just common when you get around a bunch of like-minded people and you’re all doing a specific job; you become very siloed in the way that you think this is for us to do.
But every challenge doesn’t have to be done by 1 group. It can be done spread out. And you know, more hands make the work easier. So, you know, the more people that we have that are touching them, and also because it’s easier for some people to speak to a group than for other people to speak to ’em, you know, and it — and that isn’t defined by race or gender or anything, but just experiences make it easier that you can get more by employing people within the community to tell your story than for you to go in and tell your story yourself.
Oh, exactly. You’re absolutely right.
I would say for the experiences I learned from the convening was obviously everything you just said and what you mentioned about the silos.
We showed up, everybody had their individual discipline, and it was amazing and absolutely humbling to watch everybody come together quickly for those 2 days, and it almost felt like we already knew each other. And that’s something that you might see in the fire service in the firehouse. You build that, you go through an academy, you build the same type of competencies in that relationship.
But we went to a place that was neutral to everybody from people that were librarians, public works to our public safety, integrated quickly and worked together in a common purpose or theme in which I don’t think most people would think that’s possible in what it kind of seems is a fractured type of society right now.
So, it was extremely awesome experience to be around that many diverse people, but we all moved forward quickly.
That’s awesome. So how are you working in groups? And then on top of that, how are you implementing the strategies in your community? Or are you doing that yet? Are you still working within your individual groups?
And I’m — I know I’m asking 3 questions at 1 time, but are you all in the same group? Or did you branch out to other ones?
Yeah. We have branched out now into — into different groups. They’re a little bit larger. Like I said, our public safety group that we started off with was about, I think, 7 people from police departments and fire departments and public health departments.
And now we are in 3 groups that are working on the 3 initiatives, as you mentioned. And I am in the Communications Continuum Group, and I’ll let the other 2 speak to what group they’re in. But our work right now is coming up with a deliverable that we can hand out to communities, and so we are not testing them yet with our own communities.
We are taking our experiences that we have with our communities for sure and bringing that into our work. But we’re trying to, in my specific group, the Communications Continuum, reinvent how we communicate not only with ourselves internally within local government, but with others in our community, stakeholders, community members, visitors, and so we can all work together on the same page and just collaborate more and build trust, which was a huge one. Building trust, again, that let — allow people to trust local government and show that we’re here for them and get back to the roots of what local government is all about.
So that’s my experience. We are in different groups, but I’ll let the other 2 speak to their specific groups and how we branched out.
Yeah, so I actually branched out into the Grow Resilient Workforce Group. Within that group, there was kind of 3 different subgroups that kind of sprung off of that based around the 3 premises of recruit, develop and retain.
So, we kind of hashed out a lot of the details surrounding those 3 subtopics, and we’re starting to come back together to work towards a common, uh — the first step will be kind of a survey to put out. And then eventually that could evolve, or it may very well evolve into some type of recognition or of a certification program for a city, or a county, or some type of a local government entity.
So, it could be a recognition or some type of certification program. But it’s neat to see all the, again, all the pathways coming together ’cause the work in that group in particular aligns closely, like you said, with some of the U.S. Fire Administration’s initiatives, and also the International Association of Fire Chiefs, some of their strategic initiatives over the next few years.
And I’m with Mark on the Grow a Resilient Workforce, and there’s different subcategories. And so, I’m focusing more on the development of a resilient workforce. So, what can we focus on and what is universal to the person — not just the fire service but to the person — and try to create that survey that Mark talked about that includes everybody, so that way we can identify what people desire and want to help us shape what the future could look for, whether it be in the fire service or public safety, or just workforce in general.
So, we have to identify it. What do we need to do to develop and retain employees? The last initiative that we have was the Promise Pathways, which I don’t think anybody on our group here is on that. But that Promise Pathways is working towards making employment opportunities equal and accessible to justice impacted individuals.
So, they’re working on a very unique, larger-scale initiative.
So, I’ve really seen so many things talking to you, reading off of the website where there’s so much interplay. You know, definitely with the recruiting and the resilient workforce we know there’s a recruitment issue with the fire service and I’d love to put you guys in touch with some people that are working on that because you might be able to share ideas and being able to reframe this public service and what public service means and who is part of public service. I can see that as well.
The Promise Pathways is really — I don’t know if this is the same type of — if I’m off on the wrong tangent here, but I know that when we were talking a couple months ago, Lexipol had a webinar with a bunch of fire service leaders from across the country, and they were talking about recruitment and retention, were talking about how, for lots of reasons, people are disqualified from public service because of silly things they did in their youth.
They might not be able to become a firefighter. I know, I was military, so there are people that can’t go into the military now because of a silly thing that they did in their youth, and it negates a whole field that they can work in. And one of the fire departments — I actually believe it’s a state program in Utah where what they’re working in is trying to — not everybody has to be a firefighter if you work in the fire service.
Not everybody has to be response, but there are other things that people can do and that sometimes it’s not just the form and the check-the-box type of thing. It’s the 1-on-1 conversation with someone and you realize this person made a mistake when they were 16 years old, and that should not negate them from being able to do any job for the rest of their lives.
So, I wonder if that’s even something that they would think about when they’re talking about these promised pathways — that there’s rehabilitation, there’s changes, there’s growing up, there’s just getting smart as you grow older, smarter and more aware, that can be used with more than just a resume. I don’t know.
That’s just — that point in that Lexipol webinar has always stuck with me, that we tend to give up on people and we really can’t, you know? They still have a lot to give to our society.
For sure. We convened in November and have since been working in our individual groups, and actually, coming up this month and early next month, we’re gonna be getting an update from all groups in all the initiatives.
And obviously we’re gonna be able to give feedback to everybody, but we’ll certainly give that type of feedback to the Promise Pathways. That’s actually one that I’m least familiar with, so I’m anxious to learn what more they have, but either way, it is connected. Just like many fire department organizations are looking for work, or looking for more people to work, and the trend is certainly down.
That’s no surprise, from 10, 15 years ago. And so, we’ll take, you know, we need to relook at that and what, you know, our standards are. We don’t want to lower our standards, but we don’t want to pass up something from some, again, a goofy past that somebody had in their youth.
Yeah, I mean, integrity is obviously very important when you have a fire service.
I just heard the fire administrator speaking for an interview saying that, you know, when you’re in 1-on-1 with people where you’re a firefighter or EMS and you’re very close to people, that integrity is a big deal. But sometimes, I still fall back on making a mistake when you’re 16 years old doesn’t mean that you don’t have integrity later in your life.
You know, and that those things can’t change. But I’ll get off my soapbox. This is not about me, but I think that I would like to see through every area that we relook at our hiring practices and become — and like you said, don’t lower your standards, but there may be ways to incorporate people that we thought weren’t going to be able to help us in the future.
Well, you’re absolutely right on that too. But there’s quite a bit of overlap, kind of a Venn diagram, if you will, between the workforce, the Grow a Resilient Workforce and some of the Promise Pathways type things. Particularly around kind of the concept of apprenticeship and some of the recruitment practices like you talked about.
’Cause just to be blunt, the fire service over the years has done a very, very good job of recruiting young white males to the fire service. That’s just, they’re coming from local volunteer fire departments. They’re highly qualified, and so you didn’t really ever have some of the inclusion naturally that has occurred over changing the way we recruit.
Changing the way we advertise and frankly starting these apprenticeship programs that are 1 of the initiatives.
I was just saying, Women in Fire, I know that they’re also looking at trying to do camps in the summer and in the spring trying to bring fire into that even for — not only for women, but also for young girls to say, this is an opportunity you may never have thought that this is something that you can do, but this is what we do and you could do it.
And I know that’s 1 of their initiatives as well, is to get some type of either apprenticeship — which is also 1 of our national strategy initiatives — but for Women in Fire to get more girls into it because they can do the job.
They might not do it; they might think they can’t do it because they can’t do it exactly as a man can do it and they don’t. You don’t have to. You can do it your way and there’s ways to do it. And so, it’s exciting to see that Women in Fire are getting involved in that area as well to kind of look at the recruitment and retention.
Well, you brought up another point. So there’s 2 points: one, the Promise Pathways, I think is a very difficult subject that they’re tackling initiative, which is awesome, but I look at that as they’re trying to work on the root cause of some of the issues when it pertains to violence or call volumes for public safety.
Because when people come from jail or from prison, not just the youth and recruitment, if they can’t find meaningful work because maybe a private sector’s not hiring or we’re in a recession and there’s layoffs and they haven’t obtained any skills, then they resort back to what they’re comfortable with and that then in turn engages police, and if we don’t have enough police, then it engages fire.
And so, then it turns out to increase everybody’s volume, increase the violence, increase behavioral health issues, and then it impacts us because now our volume’s up, our feeling of security is down, right? And the public perception changes based off of how we engage. So, what they’re trying to do, I think, has the ability of grabbing people that want to do better and making them now serve.
But if there’s an opportunity, then that gets them away from what they could be doing. And so, I think that’s an awesome initiative they’re working on, that if vetted the right way, it would help out some of the root causes of what we’re facing for the fire department. Public safety, when we have to run on, you know, a lot of homelessness or people that are just violent or doing things to survive.
Because of whatever past experiences. And the second thing you said about women and the fire service is huge. We are doing an audit right now in the Phoenix Fire Department to make sure that all women have the right turnouts that fit them, that we’re making sure manufacturers actually make boots for the sizes of our female firefighters.
And that 89-plus percent of our calls are EMS calls. So, to expect that just because we say we’re firefighters, that there’s not a role to play on a team just because of the perception of what you’re supposed to do as a firefighter is something we have to change. It’s not just firefighting, and just because you do it 1 way does not mean it’s the most effective way for every situation or dynamic that we face.
Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s really great that you can see how the strategies align. I know for our purposes at USFA for the fire service, but what are your thoughts on how we can work together to complement one another’s work? I don’t want to put anybody on the spot. Or also, how can our listeners get involved in Local Government 2030, or if they can’t join because it’s, you know, you’ve already started, how could they help your work?
I’ll go with that one. How can Local Government 2030 work with the USFA? Well actually, as part of our process right now, and I’m talking about our specific group, the Communications Continuum, we’re going through and we’re making sure that we’re not gonna duplicate too many processes that some other organizations have already, you know, started or initiatives that they’ve already started.
But at the same time, if we have similar initiatives, you know, working together with them, taking their ideas. Like that’s my job, I feel like, as the public service representative in Local Government 2030, is to take some of the initiatives from the USFA, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and implement those ideas into our work.
Make sure we’re not duplicating ’em too much at the same time being the go-between to whatever, facilitate the same type of work. And just, you know, make it all work together and blend together seamlessly. So, we’re all working towards the greater good.
I know that was a little bit much there, but we’re all kind of, like you said, under the same umbrella, working towards the same thing. But at the same time, our focus is — so now my job is to bring in some of the USFA initiatives and fit them into the local government level and make sure that we’re tackling them on that level.
That’s obviously our main focus here, is the local government level. But, yeah, that’s — I think that’s how we can work together. And that’s what our job is here today. And at the same time, we’re already doing it right now. We’re spreading — Local Government 2030 really needs our message to be spread out there.
We’re a new group of people looking to make good change. And we really need to let everybody know that we’re doing some work, and we want to share it with you all. So, by you having us on your podcast today is a great first step; second step, to spread the message and work together to get it out there.
Yeah. And so just to make that a little more actionable, for starters, go on the Local Government 2030 website, read the blogs. More specifically, go ahead and read the white paper that we put together for public safety and human services, and that’ll kind of get the wheels turning as you read through the final report.
And listen to some of these podcasts as we go around at some of these speaking engagements and things like that. It’s been amazing to see some of the folks just come to us after class and at breaks and things like that, just to kind of give their ideas. Like Trevor said, we’re representing the fire service. We’re delegates for all of the firefighters, both career and volunteer, throughout the country.
So, reach out to us on social media, on LinkedIn. Connect with us and just share your thoughts ’cause the more perspectives and the more ideas and the more buy-in we can get into this process also helps with some of the more deeply regional organizations, such as the USFA.
Yes, and all the USFA initiatives are outstanding, and one of the ones that we actually were able to start working on, within at least the Phoenix Fire Department, is what does career development look like versus training, right? We trained for the function of the job, but we want to develop individuals, which will make them resilient.
With all the dynamics and all the calls and the uniqueness of the challenges we face — and so that fire service apprenticeship program is a big part of being able to kind of fall into that. But mostly just communicating with all public safety people, so showing that communication is clear so we cannot be redundant but help each other.
’Cause we all need resources. So how do we get those — resources are gonna be part of this initiative to move forward.
So, is there anything else that you would like to say as we close up for today?
I would say, yeah, just be on the lookout for more things coming from Local Government 2030. We have a lot of work ahead of us and it’s gonna take some time to pull everything together. But we are gonna have a deliverable — multiple deliverables — coming out of our group here, hopefully within the next 6 months. And that hope can benefit your community, benefit your line of work.
So just stay on the lookout for us. Check in on a Local Government 2030 website. They are providing updates on a monthly basis, and you can see who else is involved on this website. See what other agencies are represented. And yeah, and follow us on our social media channels would be great too because that’s where a lot of updates come as well.
And at the same time, reach out to us with questions, ideas, anything that you want to implement. That would be great. And if we can leave our LinkedIn, we can leave our emails — whatever works for people that reach out to us. We’re happy to keep the conversation rolling.
Yeah. So again, just be sure to connect with us on social media and look at some of the blog posts and the white papers, but also look at ways that you can incorporate some of these elements, specifically within your fire department, within your local government entity. Like Marcus said, we’ve already started some of the basic foundational efforts with the workforce issues.
And refocused, instead of just considering those issues and those things we have to address, and look at those as more of opportunities. In the fire service we’ve always considered from a — not necessarily recruitment — but a retention standpoint. Everything has always been vertical.
Look at some of the more horizontal — or newest term I’ve just become familiar with is kind of that career lattice instead of a career ladder. So, looking at some of the other opportunities, like you said, of, “hey, it’s not just firefighter, driver, captain.” Throughout the ranks of the fire service and applying some of those principles.
A good example of that is NFPA 1022. They’re writing a fire analyst job performance requirement. So, looking at some of the other areas to get involved throughout the fire service. As technology evolves, as everything else evolves, it’s not just boots on the ground firefighting. It’s community risk reduction and all those other efforts that are kind of coming together to address some of the challenges we’re gonna face to 2030 and beyond.
Yes, please, I would say reach out to us. If you guys or anybody has any innovative ways that they’re solving some of these problems that we’re facing in the fire service, we would love to hear about that. And maybe we can even integrate it into the larger plan in which we’re working on right now.
So please reach out if you have anything.
Yeah, I just had 1 more thing too, just for any young listeners out there that are in the fire service or aspiring leaders. That’s kind of where we’re all at. Me, Mark and Marcus, and you know, we’re ready to take the next step, but it just takes action.
If you have an idea, feel free, like, go for it, implement it, go ask your administration and put the work in yourself and do the work and go after it. Like that’s what this is all about, that nobody told us we had to do this. This is all volunteer. We’re trying to, you know, do this for the greater good.
And so just, yeah, don’t be afraid, and take the next step. That’s kind of where we’re at and it’s — we’re hoping that it’s gonna pay off in the end.
Now I feel like I got to add 1 more thing ’cause Trevor just brought it up. It’s outstanding and it’s — I want to thank all of our mentors that are from city administrators, that are helping us put this together.
So even for us, we are in a kind of leadership development course essentially as we’re trying to reshape things. And so, we have gotten to grow individually on how to work across the nation with people from different geographical locations, come together and achieve something or have that product.
And so, I can’t say enough for what it is that we’re able to do and it has taken some courage ’cause it makes a lot of us uncomfortable sometimes in some of these situations ’cause it’s not like being on a firetruck or being on operations. And so, I want to thank the mentors that we have from the local 2030 because they have been outstanding in guiding us and developing us as we go through this process.
Good point, Marcus. Thank you.
Well, thank you for being on today because I think this is important. I love the overlap and the interplay between all these different things and almost wish there was an analyst that could stand back and take all the initiatives and put ’em up on the board and make it — make some clear, you know, work done, so that we aren’t — nobody is duplicating efforts.
But I just want to commend you for stepping up to do this because I know that it is an added-on benefit to your life. It’s not part of your everyday job. And I mean, you guys are givers — you’re firefighters, so you’re already givers. But thank you for stepping up and being mentors to the people that are gonna come behind you as well.
Thank you, Teresa, for having us on. Appreciate it.
Thank you for listening to the USFA Podcast, and thank you to Captain Hogan, Captain Scott and Firefighter Paramedic Haynes for joining us today. If you want to learn more about Local Government 2030, please go to localgov2030.com. If you have a topic or a speaker you would like us to interview, please email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org.