Firefighters in need of clear leadership

Where can I start with a second letter to the editor in just a couple of weeks? It seems like every time I open the newspaper, I read about our county CEO's latest round of "strategic planning" for Rockdale County.

He is moving, restructuring, streamlining, realigning and freezing to name a few. It is bewildering to consider the organizational chart that will result from this process if it ever ends.

I tried drawing a couple of sample charts, but my best one looks like a maze. My second effort started with the CEO drawn in the center and dozens of concentric circles surrounding him. This one ended up looking more like a slinky than anything else, however, so I tabled the project.

I noticed that the commissioners have now begun to reveal their plans for the Fire Department and I had to comment. I am a retired firefighter (with Conyers, then Rockdale), so I will admit my more-than-passing interest.

I'm concerned both as a citizen and for the professional firefighters who want to make their department the best it can be. I believe that a typical engine company goes to work every day with a simple mission statement: "Whatever happens today, handle it!" That is probably an impossible task, but they do a pretty good job of it.

One thing they can't handle, however, is the lack of clearly defined and in place, permanent leadership, and it does not look like Mr. Oden's planning is doing much to resolve this.

Before this is all over, who knows, we might end up with a hybrid position of firefighter, animal control and sheriff's deputy. Perhaps someone is already at work designing the new patch! Many years ago, one of our long-time politicians suggested that "those boys at the Fire Department could save us a lot of money if they could just stop responding to all those false alarms!"

Building on that statement, let me offer another job title for our commissioner's consideration. We need a new "false-alarm czar" to make determinations on which calls to respond to. Perhaps we could save enough money on fuel to hire a fire chief.

By the way, Mr. Oden, firefighters are now routinely getting advanced degrees in fire science and management. Your comment that the new Emergency Services director would need to have "skills" in emergency services but this job would demand a higher level of education sounded demeaning to firefighters.