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Interviews with the 2015 Fire Chiefs of the Year

Chief Charles Addington II, Volunteer Chief of the Year.

What does it mean to you to be honored as 2015 Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year?

I can’t truly express with words the honor I feel from being named 2015 Fire Chief of the Year. It’s an awesome feeling to be recognized by your peers for trying to do a good job. There are thousands of other chiefs that work diligently every day to protect their communities and make their services better. Being bestowed this honor means that I have been successful in trying to make our community and department the absolute best it can be, and I promise to continue to work hard to live up to the men and women who have gone before me.

What’s the one accomplishment you’re most proud of?

One accomplishment I’m most proud of is finishing the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer program. That program is very difficult and provides a tremendous amount of learning. I’m tremendously proud to have been given the opportunity to bring my leadership staff from the department with me to Atlanta. I would like everyone to know that I’ve hard-working, dedicated people who help me every day. I can honestly say they’ve helped me and our department achieve great things and our department wouldn’t have been able to achieve all of the accomplishments we have without their efforts.

Who has been the most influential, inside or outside the fire service, to your success? Why?

I would like to personally thank my brother Chris Addington for being a sounding board for thousands of ideas and helping me to achieve success.

When was your most difficult time or challenge in the fire service and how did you overcome it?

When a chief has to make the betterment of his service the first priority, it isn’t always received by others as positive. We’re having to change to a more combination department due to the lack of volunteers. I’m actively working on recruitment and retention and trying to develop some initiatives for increasing participation in both the volunteer and combination departments.

What advice would you offer new or emerging leaders in the fire service?

The advice I’d give would be to develop a vision for where they not only see themselves but their departments. A department without a vision is like a traveler without a map. You desire to go somewhere, but really have no course with which to get there. Then the leader must be able to explain his vision and why it’s important to the betterment of the department and establish steps to make it successful. The leader must empower his people to use their talents and not inhibit their progress or work. The leader may have to answer questions, refine goals and objectives, and make sure the task is being accomplished but shouldn’t micromanage or get in the way of progress.

Chief Dan Eggleston, Career Chief of the Year

What does it mean to you to be honored as 2015 Career Fire Chief of the Year?

First, I am extremely privileged and thrilled to be honored as the Career Fire Chief of Year and humbled to be among great leaders in the fire service who’ve previously received this award. Today’s fire chief requires a strong team at work and at home. Having time to reflect, I realized that I’m so very grateful to have such a supporting environment: family, department, county government, friends and associates in the fire service, and wonderful citizens of Albemarle County.

What’s the one accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Throughout my career, I’ve served in various roles with many high-performing organizations and have personally and professionally benefited from those experiences. One of the key leadership traits I’ve learned is that leaders are responsible for developing the talent in their organizations by creating an atmosphere in which people can grow and prosper. Looking back at my career with a focus on past accomplishments, I’m very proud to have participated in developing and mentoring many people in the fire service, some of whom are now in key leadership roles.

What has the reaction been from your department and community about you being named Fire Chief of the Year?

The reaction from my department, community and friends has been outstanding. The news spread quickly via social media, which created quite a buzz at home. Notes, emails and calls flooded in after the news was released. Back home, we’ve had a number of events that allow me to celebrate and socialize with friends and coworkers. The publicity also created an opportunity for me to reconnect with many former coworkers, some going back to the early days of my career.

Who has been the most influential, inside or outside the fire service, to your success? Why?

My parents had the biggest impact on me throughout my life. My dad was a charter member and past fire chief of our local volunteer fire department, and my mom was an elementary school teacher for 42 years. They instilled the values of respect, kindness, honesty, courage and dependability. They supported my choices in life and were always there when I needed advice. In terms of the fire service, I am one of the few fire chiefs who has been fortunate enough to have supportive and forward-thinking bosses throughout my career—professional and committed servant leaders who invested time and effort to coach and help me develop as a leader. The mentors in my life have always encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and gain perspective to stretch and grow as a leader.

When was your most difficult time or challenge in the fire service and how did you overcome it?

Certainly the challenge of leading the transition of a combination career/volunteer department would be at the top of the list of difficult challenges. In a combination system, there are competing interests and a diverse set of needs that create a perfect recipe for conflict and strife. The key point is to benefit from the various views and not let it becomes the thing that divides the department. While leading a combination system can be challenging at times, it can also be a very rewarding process, especially when the team in a unified front overcomes significant obstacles.

What advice would you offer new or emerging leaders in the fire service?

One of the primary responsibilities of a fire service leader is to pay it forward. Mentoring others is a rewarding process and pays dividends to the fire service. Therefore, I would advise emerging leaders to become involved in your association, seek out a mentor and learn from their experiences. Many chief officers, including myself, are where they are today because someone helped them along the way. The process of becoming a fire service leader is like running a marathon: slow and steady with an eye on the long-term goal, a goal only you can define.

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