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President's Letter: Taking Up the Challenge as IAFC President and Chairman of the Board

It’s with great honor and humility that I start my term as the president and chairman of the board for the International Association of Fire Chiefs. I can’t believe I have the opportunity to serve in a position that has been filled with the top fire service leaders for over 130 years.

I can remember as a young fire chief saying to my wife, “I can’t believe I met Ronnie Coleman.” “I can’t believe I met David Paulison.” “I can’t believe I met Luther Fincher.” And so on.

I wish to thank all those who have helped me become a better leader and person over the years, including all those in the fire service, but especially the members of my family: my children and my wife (who is a saint to put up with me all of these years).

And a special thanks to my mother, and another to my father, who passed away in 2007 and served in the fire service for a number of years before being injured in a building collapse during mop-up, for their support as I grew up.

I also want to thank Jack Parow as he moves from the president to past president of our organization. Great job, Jack!

Jack helped lead us through some of the most difficult times our organization has had to weather. He always knew what he wanted to accomplish and didn’t flinch when reaching for his goals or standing up for the good of the fire and emergency service.

As the leader of this organization, I’ll have the great advantage of having the A Team serving as the executive board: Hank Clemmensen, Bill Metcalf and Rich Carrizzo as the 1st vice-president, 2nd vice-president and treasurer, respectively. And an unbelievable board of directors, division leaders, section leaders, committee leaders, staff and CEO Mark Light round out the stars who serve you and this organization to the best of their ability.

Together, we’ll continue to provide you with the very best in leadership, education and service.

In addition to continuing the great work that has been accomplished in the past, I intend to work with these stars to improve the communications we all need on emergency responses and in our organization.

We’ll also help those in our organization define and provide for myriad types of EMS models based on the needs and desires of our communities.

We have been the “International” association forever, but this year—because of the hard work of previous leaders—we’ll host a summit for fire service leaders from around the world in October.

Finally, we’ll start a formal process of helping us collectively: improving the image of our fire leaders and our organizations.

I look forward to serving you and working as a member of this fine group of leaders. Together, we’ll give you our best. You deserve it.

Chief Al H. Gillespie, EFO, CFO, MIFireE, is the president and chairman of the board of the IAFC. He serves as the fire chief for the City of North Las Vegas, Nev., and is a Harvard Fellow.

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