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Blog Note: Don Rickles (young ones will need to Google) said: “We make fun of the ones we love”. So, feel the love!

For the record, I am a fire district trustee and I have struggled to find a diplomatic way to address my thoughts on this issue, so I am going to just jump in and use my usual recipe of humor, sarcasm and just a dash of cynicism.

There have been several discussions and blogs written on the “aging of the fire service”. Most of the conversations have centered around FIREFIGHTERS, but I have noticed for many years the age of the fire district trustees. In fact; at a seminar a few years back, the moderator asked who had 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years as fire district trustees. Hell; I haven’t even made it to 10 years yet and there was this guy who had OVER 50 years as a trustee and he was still upright and ambulating under his own power.

Now; when I was an active firefighter, I was a sponge and soaked up all of the training that I could get my hands on. I have noticed that training for trustees is few and far between, so I was lamenting about it to Bobby Halton on Fire Engineering Talk Radio.

I was running down the list of HOT training for this year’s FDIC and it is a real smorgasbord of hands-on and classroom training for the firefighter and the instructors-in-training. The list of instructors reads like a who’s who and navigating the shark-infested waters of fire districts begs for this type of training for the REAL leaders of the fire service; the trustees!

Well, Bobby made some wise-crack about clipboards, paper, pens and pocket protectors, but told me to submit a proposal.


We’re going to go public, baby; nation-wide!

What could happen? Think about it. I went from being one of the oldest firefighters on the department to one of the youngest trustees in the entire state of Illinois! So, unless Biff and the boys can get a weekend pass from the senior living center coordinator to come after me; I don’t see a problem. And besides; someone needs to tell them that ball-busting is a time-honored, fire service tradition.

So; go grab a beverage and I’ll do my best to lay this out for you.

FDIC has been responsible for bringing the best of the best together for umpteen years.

As the firefighters and their fire departments have directly benefited; somewhere over there in the corner stands the lonely trustees, hoping and praying that it didn’t cost any money.

See; that right there could be a break-out session; “Training-Going Dutch Treat With the Trustees”. Learn how to look down at your feet as you ask your firefighters to split the cost of training with you. Learn how to discourage firefighter development with snappy comebacks such as ‘We didn’t budget for it’; ‘We don’t pay for outside training’; and my favorite, ‘Don’t we have training officers?’

I want to point out here and now that thriftiness has always been the hallmark of fire district trustees or to put it another way…a bunch of tight-wads!

If you are at a vendor booth, you can always tell who the trustee is. He is the one who dumps the dish of free candy into their tote bag. Don’t berate them; it’s their dinner, because they are trying to make FDIC on twenty bucks a day. If you ask them where they’re staying; it’s the rest area just up the interstate. They are still wearing the first free hat that they ever got. Oh; they got a closet full of new hats at home, but THIS one has a mesh back and isn’t worn out yet. This begs a session in; “Free Quote Equals a Free Dinner”. Learn how to act like you are serious about buying from a vendor; learn clock management (hitting the booth just before closing time); learn how to slip food topics into the conversation and to become a pro with facial expressions guaranteed to project sincerity. You will learn how to reach for your wallet without ever coming into contact with it (This could be an all-day session by itself!). Soon, you will be on your way to a five-star eatery as a “prospective customer” (I know; I’m laughing, too!)

Now; I have a good friend who is “in the business” and he tells me that he can spot a trustee from a mile away. Can you say, “PROFILING”? But, according to my good buddy, they stick out like that chrome Q on the front bumper.

And after he told me what he looks for, I felt like such a fool. Are you ready for this? He looks for…

Velcro fasteners on pure white athletic shoes. Wal-Mart brand!

According to my buddy, these are worn with blue jeans, but this trustee will more than likely have another pair of blue/gray with Velcro straps to wear with their dress pants for when they go out for that free dinner! He continues to tell me that he and his crew used to bet each other, but it was becoming too easy a sport. They would look at clothing-bib overalls for instance; denim shirt with the Pioneer Seed Corn logo and of course, the SHOES. But, they would notice physical features like ear hair that was so thick that it resembled ear muffs. There has to be a hearing aid in there somewhere one of them would say. And what of this phenomenon of wearing suspenders AND a belt to hold up your plaid slacks? There’s a session there: “High-waisted Pants in a Hip Hugger Society”.

Other classes and their short descriptions:

“Why is HE on the Board?” Well, the short answer is because he is good with money, but how do you know that if you’ve never actually seen him SPEND any? Includes a video of squirrels gathering nuts.

“Opening Act Vs. Open Meetings Act”. Yes; there is a difference, however subtle.

“Nutrition: Oatmeal and Prunes; a Moving Experience”. This one is sponsored by Kimberly Clark. Free samples, you ask? Depends!

“Getting Familiar With the Standards”. No; we aren’t talking NFPA standards here. We are talking about standard REPLIES. In no time, “We can’t afford it”; “We can’t raise taxes”; “We just spent money on new equipment” (Note: “just spent” was five or more years ago); “We don’t have the money”; “It costs money to run a fire department”; and “We have to run it by the attorney” will roll off of your tongue. Time will be spent practicing how to say these replies with a straight face.

“How to Sneeze Without Launching Your Dentures”. A must if you have ever been to a class where the room was very tight or there wasn’t a sneeze guard over the salad isle at the restaurant. Waiter; there’s a fly…set of dentures in my soup!

“Spending Money Without Complaining”. In this session, participants would hear from a trustee who actually spends tax money without complaining. Hear positive, up-lifting messages such as, “What can we buy for the department?” or “If you need it, we will get it for you”; or, “No, no; you won’t need a fundraiser to pay for it!” and “We will hold a hearing to raise the tax base”. A national search for that ONE trustee will begin immediately. I have been told that he DOES exist.

“Remembering When”. Take a stroll down memory lane. This session will teach you to preface every sentence with “I remember when it only cost ______ (fill in the blank) to fill up a truck” or “I remember when you could get three loaves of bread for a dollar” or “I remember when we burnt coal for heat”. This one is used when discussing where to set the thermostat at the fire station!

“A Fire Truck Shouldn’t Wear Out”. Here, trustees will learn to whine in a high pitch to get a repair done for free, even though the warranty has expired. Other topics will include: applying for antique status for your front line pumper, 101 uses for duct tape and setting up a 40-year rotation for buying new trucks.

“Borrowing Money While Saving in CDs”. You need money. You won’t raise taxes and you want to leave the CDs for “emergencies”. Here you will learn to proffer a convincing argument that it’s cheaper to borrow money at 7 percent than it is to cash in a CD that is earning 3.75 percent. And if you clip a table cloth to your shirt, you can fly just like Superman. This is a feel-good seminar.

“Your Fire District and a Prostate Exam”. Time will not allow me to list all of the benefits of this class. PPE will be provided.

I didn’t forget the Fire Girls calendar booth either. They will feature Betty White and Larry King in drag. Appearing in the Extreme Makeover booth at the same time will be Joan Rivers.

Well, I hope that Bobby is reading this. I think it’s a pretty good start. I am sure some of my readers will send in their suggestions.

Now; I must go and check out E Bay. I heard that you can get Air Jordans with Velcro. And I have a birthday coming up.

And if you see me at FDIC this week; don’t mention to anyone that I’m a blogger. This week, I’m a trustee looking to make a “major” purchase. Oh; and I don’t have dinner plans. Hah!


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on March 29, 2011 at 9:17am
We are one of the few boards in the area who are actually elected rather than appointed.
The crazy thing is; in Illinois, trustees are appointed to three-year terms and then are re-appointed or replaced every three years. But, because the position isn't very high profile-or, at least it wasn't-people who get appointed think that it's for natural life, because no one goes up against them.
The reason I think is because the school district takes up much of the property tax money that people don't notice the tax going to fire districts. If there is no controversy, there is no need to change it, so trustees are on for a very long time.
I believe that trustees should be elected. Period. In many cases, there is a lot of tax money at stake and it should be representative government that decides. Think about it; if the county board has a party majority, then what are the odds that they select trustees of the same party philosophy? Place your bet; you will win.
Anyway, thanks for the comment.
Comment by Mike France on March 23, 2011 at 8:29am

Wow, Sounds like Fire Commissioners here always looking at saving a buck or it's not needed . No Pun intended Art. As you know i have said this several times about my Boaard of Fire Commissioners. Example , here in NY  the Personal Rescue law , well try explaining to 2 -80 yr. old members of the board why we have to do this then show the written law . The only saving grace is here in NY they are mandated by law to take training every year either classroom or on line [never happen] . The nice thing was that we have 3 younger Commissioners who understand .

But as you said they look for the free stuff . Enjoy FDIC


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