Arlington Professional Fire Fighters
IAFF Local 1329
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    September 19, 2020
  • Don Crowson Questionnaire
    Updated On: Jun 30, 2010
    Don Crowson

    Arlington, TX Fire Chief Candidate Questionnaire
    1.    Why do you want to be the Fire Chief of the AFD? The fulfillment of a professional career goal involving the City I was born and raised in, along with being a member of an outstanding Fire Department. This is my home and I want to lead the Fire Department that protects it.
    What is your vision for our future?    
    My vision for the Arlington Fire Department’s future is one where:
    ·         AFD is the preeminent Fire Department in the region, providing state of the art services by highly trained members in all areas of emergency response.
    ·         The AFD is seen as an open and caring organization, where its members share a bond of duty, honor and loyalty with one another and with the community.
    ·         AFD is a positive and opportunistic organization, making a noticeable difference in the community it serves.
    What are the top three strengths of AFD? What are the top three challenges for AFD?
    Top Three Strengths:
    1. The members of the Department can achieve anything – we don’t accept failure because      we know we can succeed even in the most difficult situations. 
    2. Depth of experience at all levels of the organization means efficient and expert level performance. It’s one reason why our team is sharp and safe.
    3. Our members are innovative and have a great sense of pride in the abilities of Arlington Fire Department – We lead the rest.
    Top Three Challenges:   
    1. The economy’s impact on the Department and its members. This is a very difficult economy and we’re feeling the impact in Arlington and the Fire Department. We must position the Department wisely for success in these difficult times.   
    2.  Succession planning – institutional knowledge transfer – our history and lessons must be shared. We must prepare our future leaders with the knowledge learned from our past. (115 members are eligible for retirement today)
    3. Diversity – Turning the corner on this important issue with principle and credibility is   needed for the future success of our Department and City.
    2.     What is your role as Fire Chief in obtaining, maintaining, and expanding our compensation, benefits, and overtime? 
    ·         The Fire Chief’s responsibility is to position the organization for opportunity and to propose an “operational” budget reflective of the needs of the organization. 
    ·         The Department’s overtime budget is based on a formula associated with Arlington’s “modified staffing” model -- a model I researched and promulgated in the 1990s. It was adopted by the Department and has been in use ever since. I’ve participated directly in four separate audits with City auditors examining the staffing/overtime model.   As Chief, I’m responsible for keeping Department expenditures within budget by implementing good fiscal practices that meet operational needs.
    ·         Compensation and benefits are recommended by City Management and authorized by City Council.
    3.    How will you incorporate the Leadership of Local 1329 in the Leadership of AFD?
    Local 1329 Leadership will have open line of communication into the office of Fire Chief. There will be direct participation in annual planning sessions with the Leadership team.   Local 1329’s concerns and views on issues impacting the membership and the Department are important and will be heard and considered in decision making.   Labor’s perspective is important and it’s vital that we maintain an open dialogue of candor and respect between Labor and Management, because it’s in the interest of all.
    What is the appropriate role of a Political Action Committee in city government?   
    The PAC typically engages political entities in the interest of the members of Local 1329.   The appropriate role of the PAC is determined by Local 1329, not the Fire Chief.
    4.    What is your plan to address diversity issues?
    I plan to modify the existing hiring process to create opportunity for all members of the community to be eligible to apply for a firefighter position in Arlington. I also intend to encourage direct community recruitment to make sure all segments of our community are aware and engaged in this opportunity.  I’ve provided details of the plan to Local 1329.
    How will you manage two employee Labor Associations? A Fire Chief doesn’t, and shouldn’t, try to “manage” a Labor Organization. He should work with labor to address issues in the interest of the Department. There is one approved representative group for labor in the AFD, the APFFA. That being said, all members of the Department have the right to voice their concerns or issues in a professional manner. This includes members of the Hispanic Firefighter’s Association. They too, have a right to voice their views and concerns, as well any other member of the Department. As Chief, I will provide an open and inclusive communication environment for all members of the Department. I recognize the official status of those acting in an official representative capacity for labor (APFFA).
    5.    What is your plan to address morale issues?
    Morale issues can be broad and complicated, and no matter the solution not everyone will be satisfied with the outcome. Morale issues should be addressed proactively by providing principled and transparent leadership. Consistency and credibility when addressing issues will help meet members’ expectations of a dependable and reliable leadership team. Leaders and members should be open to new ideas and possible solutions to issues as long as they meet credible management principles and are in the interest of the organization and its members.   The key to making all of this work is regular, honest and respectful communication between the leaders and the members of our Department.   I will meet and exceed the “expectations of the Chief” and will hold Department leaders accountable to the “expectations of Department Leaders” as identified in the Department’s “Leadership Contract.
    Give examples of previous morale issues and your solutions. 
    Recently, some Department members voiced concerns over the Department’s FY2011 budget proposals because of incorrect “rumor mill” information moving through the Department by way of the informal communication chain. To address this issue, I communicated directly with Battalion Chiefs about FY2011 proposals and asked them to directly communicate budget proposal information with the membership. I then connected with Local 1329 leadership and discussed with them the FY2011 budget proposals. I then followed that meeting with an email communication to all members of the Department to ensure that every FD member had factual information on FY2011 budget proposals. Getting correct information out through multiple official channels was a way of limiting the impact of “rumor” information in Department that caused unnecessary concern (morale).   You can expect regular and open communications on issues impacting members if I’m selected as Fire Chief.
    Another issue impacting morale is compensation. The Fire Chief has limited ability to impact this issue. What the Fire Chief can do is create opportunity to help members of this Department when and where he can.
    I believe I’ve helped our members on this issue by helping to create secondary overtime opportunities at both Sports Stadiums. These secondary overtime jobs are based on our teams’ professional skill set and training. This is something never afforded to Arlington Firefighters ever in the history of the AFD. Unlike police, firefighters have never had this option in the secondary employment market. Now they do. 
    I’ve received considerable positive feedback from an overwhelming number of members in our Department stating their appreciation for this opportunity. In fact the level of participation by the Department seems to indicate that most of the members do appreciate this new employment opportunity, because for some, it represents additional funding for their families. 
    While this has been a great opportunity for many, there are those that will disagree with this secondary overtime program. Some have disagreed with the initial concept of Special Events and how the Special Events program was implemented. As with any decision or action, there will not be 100% agreement, despite multiple formal communications about the Special Event program. It’s the Chief’s responsibility to do what he can for membership of the Department as well as the City. The leader’s goal should be: to do the most one can do, to benefit as many people as possible, in a principled, credible and cost effective manner. I think we did that with this issue.   
    6.    What is your experience with Mass Gatherings?
    Since 2007, I’ve conducted extensive research on this issue - from multiple NFL and College stadium investigations with team representatives and our public safety counterparts in those cities, to Super Bowl visits, to partnerships with local, state and federal agencies, to direct negotiations with the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. Our operational model at the Stadiums, represent a best practice model for both the NFL and MLB. On average, I receive a couple of calls a month from other NFL cities’ public safety agencies asking for details on our special event public safety model and for information on our Special Event Ordinance. We are setting the standard in the industry.
    How did you balance operational needs of the gathering with normal daily operational needs? 
    After a 1st year process review, the current model has been modified slightly and will continue forward with adjustments to be made as needed.  Normal services levels in the City are not typically impacted by Special Events except for very unusual or rare circumstances (i.e. a surprise Presidential visit or other unexpected issue). Special Events have provided members with additional money making opportunities at rates reflective of typical FD overtime rates. The objective is to cover all special events with off-duty personnel to lessen the possibility of an impact to normal City operations.  This is the way it occurs 99% of the time except for when unexpected or unusual circumstances occur. The sport teams pay for all special event employee costs.
    7.    How will you build a leadership team? What members of the organization will participate in the leadership team? How will these members be involved in decision-making? 
    The Leadership team will continue in its current form including: Local 1329 representatives, the Fire Chief, Assistant Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, and the section heads from Prevention, Dispatch and OEM. What we will improve on, is the way and the frequency in which we communicate with one another. We can do better. 
    8.    What are your leadership values? What do you value most? What do you value most about our job? What are your strengths and weaknesses? 
    I think leadership means articulating a bold vision, then focusing and empowering people to achieve amazing things in the interest of the organization. I believe in doing the right things right, accompanied by detailed communication to ensure understanding. Now “understanding” doesn’t always mean “complete agreement” between labor and management. It means accurately understanding the issue involved and allowing opportunities for feedback in order to share alternative perspectives on issues. This model is helpful for organizational stability and morale. The “other side” of issues will be heard and considered by leadership.
    I value: personal responsibility, honesty, integrity, duty, honor, candor, service, professionalism, creativity, initiative, respect and compassion. I have others, but I think you know where I stand.
    What do you value most?  The safety of those I’m charged with leading – there is no higher priority.
    What do you value most about our job? We have the opportunity to help those in need when they need us the most. There is no greater honor than to serve others. We are indeed fortunate to be among the selected few, honored with this privilege.
    What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    My strengths are that I’m personally invested and care about the professionalism and performance of the Arlington Fire Department. I have a significant technical skill set along with an opportunistic and system thinking perspective that I’ve leveraged in the course of my career to progress the interests of the Arlington Fire Department and its members. I’m a very effective leader and budget/program manager. That being said, I still consider Firefighter safety as my number one priority above everything else. It’s the people that make the difference here and I want them to be safe.
    My weaknesses – I’m sometimes a little too passionate about my job and my responsibilities – which means I work on weekends a little too often. Some things can wait… I’m learning.
    As interim Chief, I’m purposely listening and delegating more because that what’s needed in the position of Chief. In other words, different jobs require different leadership approaches in order to be successful. I’m focusing on our strategic direction and organizational positioning while empowering other leaders to manage the tactics and tasks needed to accomplish our goals.
    9.     What is the appropriate balance between fire service tradition and progressive change for our future? 
    The Fire Service traditions of duty, honor and service never go out of style. Respect for our history and our predecessors are important and should always be honored by the Department.
    I also agree with the concept of the customer (the citizens and environmental conditions) helping identify the services we should provide. We must be able to adjust and adapt in order to serve our customers in the best possible way for this Department to succeed. 
    I believe in a “positioning for opportunity” management philosophy and in being prepared to adjust, adapt, and succeed in a changing environment. This approach prepares the Department for all types of “opportunity” and “challenging” situations. We need to acknowledge opportunities and challenges as soon as possible and be prepared to engage them in a way that produces the best possible outcome for all involved.

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