The fire service each year loses leaders to the hands of time. Over the years I have witnessed many fire service leaders pass on. Fortunately I have seen their legacy live on in others. This is a tribute to their leadership ability. On January 2, 2010 the Vermont and the Nation's fire service lost another leader, Chief Ralph Jackman. Serving the fire service for most of his adult life at 85 years young he was still giving his heart and soul to the fire service and his community. Chief Jackman accomplished something many leaders only dream of, that is serving as a fire chief for 50+ years.
His loss will be felt for many years with his family, friends and colleagues in the fire service. However, rest assured his leadership will live on. I know this because he shared a small part of that with me which has had large impacts with me personally. Chief Jackman inspired me in many ways. His leadership will be seen each time there is an Addison County Fire School, Each time the Vergennes Fire Department is dispatched and in the years to come as his mentees continue to lead the fire service.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned within this short piece and I want to share the one that has impacted me the most. Chief Jackman was a chief to many more people than just the Vergennes Firefighters, he was a firefighters chief. He always cared about everyone, giving tirelessly to others, serving the every need someone had and expecting nothing in return. I was impacted by Chief Jackman several years ago while teaching at the Addison County Fire School. His mere presence made everyone strive to a new level of excellence, give that extra 10% you didn't know you had just by walking into the room. He was a man who could inspire you by his quick smile and wit. He was progressive seeking new, improved and safer ways to do business. He believed in education and training. His hospitality was given to mere strangers and he shared everything ounce of knowledge he had.
His legacy will live one in those he touched. However, I want it to go further than that...I want it to touch as many people as it possibly can as his passion for serving others impacted me in so many ways. To every chief, company officer and firefighter my challenge to you is be the best you can be. Understand, embrace and respect the responsibilities you have. Officers, take responsibility, be the leader your supposed to be.
"...It is the Fire officers of today who will lead the way in determining whether we revel in traditions of the past, seek comport in the practices of the present, or explore ways on how to improve in the future..." - Louis J. Amabili, Former Director , Delaware State Fire School and International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI).
In closing I want to challenge you to carry on the legacy of the great fire service leaders who have gone before us like most recently Chief Ralph Jackman. The fire service is counting on you.