7th District Report


Ricky Walsh
7th District Vice President 

The following report of the 7th District Vice President is respectfully submitted to General President Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly, the IAFF Executive Board and all officers and delegates to this 54th Convention held in Seattle in accordance with the provisions of Article VI, Section 7, of the International Association of Fire Fighters Constitution and By-Laws. The report contains a summary of activities in the 7th District from August 2016 through April 2018.

During that time union fire fighters and EMS personnel honored me with the privilege of representing the members of Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. I continue to faithfully serve the members of the district and the International to the best of my ability. I attended all executive board meetings and completed all tasks assigned to me by the General President. My actions and votes during board meetings were made with the needs and the concerns of 7th District members in mind but also with great regard for the interests of IAFF members on the front lines every day and those in retirement. My specific duties as a member of the IAFF Executive Board include serving on several committees including: Education and Training, Emergency Medical Services, Information and Technology, Governmental Affairs and Grants Administration. It has been an honor to attend and participate in all IAFF functions and, sadly, far too many line-of-duty memorials honoring our fallen brothers and sisters.

The office of the 7th District actively creates new programs to benefit affiliate locals while continuing existing programs with an eye toward improvement. With the assistance of District Field Service Representatives (DFSR) Brian Hurley (Tumwater Local 2409) and Greg Womack (Boise Local 149) a 7th District program known as “mini-education seminar series” was enhanced and continues to educate members with workshops offered at the local grassroots level. The venues included fire house training rooms, hotel meeting rooms and college campuses. Training topics were workshops previously offered at ALTS, but they also included specially-designed courses tailored to the location in which the training was delivered or the “hot issues” of the day. The courses were developed by the DFSRs or myself. I thank AGP Jim Ridley and Matt Vinci, the education director, for their continued support and assistance to me in this endeavor.

The 7th District website provides information to all IAFF members who are interested in the district’s activities on a 24/7 basis. Links to all state associations in the 7th District are accessible on this site as are the 7th DVP editorials, announcements, photos and other important documents. In addition, the website contains a 7th District Library that houses labor publications for checkout to any member who registers onsite. The website is available at www.iaff7thdistrict.org. We also established a 7th DVP Facebook page and a 7th District Twitter page. Both Twitter and Facebook are now utilized to disseminate information to the District and beyond. Special thanks to Reece Williams (L3427), Jasper Stenstrom (L726) and Jay Wilkins (L3711) for their assistance in keeping our social media platforms fresh, timely and accurate. We will consider other avenues to deliver our message to assure that IAFF members obtain news and other information on a timely basis.

On another front, the “7th District Caucus” has been an overwhelming success thanks to the commitment of the State Association Executive Boards and 7th District IAFF State Representatives. Washington hosted the caucus in 2016 and Montana in 2017 with support from Puget Sound Authority FFs (L1747), Whitefish FFs (L3995) and 7th District headquarters as the primary sponsors. The 2016 caucus included 7th District goals as mandatory discussion and team building exercises for all attendees. In 2017, the caucus focused on “Getting Rid of Emotional Baggage” with 7th District friend Donna Hallock, and a team building exercise that all attendees enjoyed. The 7th District Caucus is also sponsored by DiMartino Associates and MDA. The 7th District state leadership team functions as one with full effort given to all members of the 7th District allowing for opportunity to grow and be successful.

The magnificent 7th District and the associated state organizations continue to invest in education. Each state association, in partnership with the 7th District Office, presents a joint education conference annually. The subject matter varies from generic classes to specific topics for the state hosting the conference. Instructor backgrounds vary from local union members with expertise to state agency representatives.

The 7th District office also partnered with the WSCFF, PFFI, MSCOPFF and the HAMMER training facility to conduct an annual FIREOPS 101 event in Richland, Washington. Invitations for the event are sent to all 7th District locals encouraging them to bring their local decision makers for “a day in the life of a firefighter.” During the event policy makers from the Northwest interacted and experienced what fire fighters experience on a daily basis. Tri-City Locals 1052, 1296, 1433, I-24 and Walla Walla Local 404 deserve recognition for the success of this program and my tail-boardman at retirement, Travis Leonard, who I count on heavily to make this program happen.

FIREOPS 101 has been so successful in the 7th District that we branched out to have a bi-annual event in Juneau and an annual event in Boise. To date the 7th District team has graduated over 450 policy makers from the FIREOPS 101 program. I want to thank the many dedicated union leaders and fire service professionals who work to make these events a success. Special thanks to Assistant to the General President Lori Moore-Merrell who is paramount to the success of these highly anticipated events.

Looking to the future, a new and exciting educational program was developed in the 7th District office in 2014 titled, “The New Fire Fighter Conference,” formally known as the “Young Member Conference.” The program is designed to assist with succession planning for every local and state office, and we educate and mentor new leaders. The New Fire Fighter Conference is limited to local affiliate members born in 1985 and after or those on the job for less than five years. Candidates are individuals considered by local union leaders to be shining stars worthy union leadership positions. This is a new concept when compared with the “it’s your turn in the barrel” motto practiced by too many of our affiliates. Since its inception over 900 new members have participated in a two-and-a-half-day seminar learning IAFF history, labor history, politics, state association history, world views and where to gather information. The conference is an annual event in the 7th District.

Another exciting new program developed in the 7th District office is the “Executive Leadership Series” tailored to those who attended most IAFF classes in the past and have vast knowledge and experience. This program consists of eight meetings during a year. The meetings are held at locations throughout the 7th District. The focus of the meetings is to share knowledge, skills, education and training to members seeking higher office within the 7th District. Advanced negotiations, organizing, mediation, presenting arbitrations, labor history and state politics are part of the curriculum. This is real successor training to assure the locals in the 7th District are served when experienced leaders move on and new leaders come into office.

This office continues to service the locals of the magnificent 7th District with the assistance of IAFF headquarters and the state executive boards. The work of IAFF state representatives, who are appointed by the General President after consulting with me, cannot be overstated. The work of contract assistance, jurisdictional issues and local business model formulation are just some of their assignments. This office could not be successful without the dedication of these brothers and sisters.

The district continues to oversee the 7th District Benevolent Fund primarily to assist members when they hit bumps in the road. This has been a highly successful endeavor that truly hit its target audience. Funds are generated by members themselves through annual events such as the Shad Fishing Derby, the Rum and Diet Golf Tournament, the Longview Salmon Derby and sales of 7th District clothing. The 7th District Gala, held biannually at the IAFF Convention, is the largest fundraiser for the program. The fund is also available to 7th District Locals who have community needs but lack the resources of a charitable fund. In addition to assisting members or affiliate communities during their time of need, eight college scholarships are awarded annually to children of 7th District members entering a college or university. A special acknowledgement goes out to Brother Bill Dodd (Local 710) for his expertise handling the initial set up and continued support as the 7th District Benevolent Fund accountant.

The 7th District perseveres in its support of FIREPAC which continues to surpass total gains in 2015 and 2016. I want to recognize and give thanks to all IAFF state and local officers for their efforts and attention to FIREPAC, their state association PAC, as well their local affiliate PACs. AGP David Lang, Director Andy LaVigne and the entire staff of the IAFF Governmental Affairs Division should be commended for assisting me and the district in adding more dues check off locals than any other district, leading to more contributing members. They are truly there when we need them!

The 7th District not only funds political activity but also gives time and effort. All state associations were heavily involved in politics. In Alaska, the AKPFFA made great strides in electing friendly politicians to the state legislature in a bid to regain a defined benefit pension plan for members hired since 2006. A bill addressing the issue received a hearing this last session and is still alive at the time of this writing. Additionally, AKPFFA continues to work with the governor’s office to assure public safety officers want to live, work and stay in Alaska. AKPFFA has experienced some turnover at the executive board level, and there is a new level of excitement.

In Washington, the WSCFF was actively engaged in a special election that turned the state Senate over to the Democrats. This worked out well for an aggressive progressive agenda. For the WSCFF this translated to adding PTSD to their list of presumptive diseases covered by Washington law. Advocacy efforts by WSCFF helped Washington become the first state in the nation to ban firefighting foams containing PFOAs and PFOSs as well mandatory labeling in our firefighting gear about fire retardant chemicals in them.

The PFFI is working hard in the governor’s race to head off a poor candidate promising to rid Idaho of their defined benefit pension plans and collective bargaining. MSCOPFF has its eye on passing a presumptive law after years of being ignored by the Montana legislature. They are heavily engaged in preparing for the bi-annual session. Finally, in the political arena over the past two years, 10 members of the 7th District graduated from the IAFF Political Action Training Academy. Many past 7th District PTA graduates continue to work at the IAFF’s discretion when called.

The 7th District continues to grow in the number of locals and in membership. New locals have been chartered in every state in the district during the last two years with many potential efforts still to be explored. It is a testament to the hard work by the members of the 7th District as we continue to grow in these uncertain political times.

On a personal note, I took a needed break in my service as the IAFF 7th District VP and sorely missed the work I truly love. When doing so, my long-time friend and mentor Kelly Fox took the reins, and I thank him so very much for the work that he accomplished. He decided to take on a new position with Cal-PERS in an area that he loves and knows and we in the 7th wish him success in this new endeavor. This 7th District decided to give me a second opportunity to lead and sit on the IAFF Executive Board, and I sincerely thank all members who came out and rallied to elect me.

I would be remiss if I did not mention and wholeheartedly thank the following state president and secretary-treasurer teams for their overwhelming support: (WSCFF) Dennis Lawson and Greg Markley, (MSCOFF) Joel Fassbinder and Dave Van Son, (AKPFFA) Tom Wescott and Dominic Lozano, and (PFFI) Tom Lovell and Curtis Smith. In addition, a wholehearted thank you and farewell to my close friend Brian Partch, the former AKPFFA Secretary-Treasurer who served well with a vision that changed the AKPFFA forever. Also thank you to the state executive board members, DFSRs, and all IAFF service representatives of the 7th District. Without their sacrifice and support, the task of working for you would be incredibly difficult. Additionally, I want to thank the entire staff at IAFF headquarters as they exhibit talent and dedication to assist the DVPs, state associations and locals of this great International. It is difficult to express the proper gratitude in words to General President Schaitberger for his guidance and assistance to the 7th District, this District Vice President and former DVP Fox. I can only say thank you, and I enjoyed the journey we made. Lastly, but not least, thanks to my family and my close friends for their sacrifice and understanding as I carried out my commitment to the members of the 7th District and the IAFF.

In closing, the above represents a mere summary of the highlights of the last two years in the magnificent 7th District. It could not fully reflect the continued dedication, difficult work and sacrifices of the local and state leadership or its members on behalf of this great International Association of Fire Fighters. It is an honor and truly a privilege to serve all of you. I urge you to consider and debate the resolutions presented by the executive board as they address issues that will benefit the members of this great union. This week demands your attention, but it is also a time for growth. Cultivate new relationships and solidify old friendships because they are valuable beyond words and never to be taken for granted. Above all, enjoy your experience at our 100th year convention. Stay safe!