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The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has announced the winners of the 2018 IAFC Fire Chief of the Year awards, sponsored by Pierce Manufacturing. Volunteer Fire Chief, Herbert Leusch, of the Glen Echo Fire Department in Bethesda, Maryland, and Career Fire Chief, Joanne Hayes-White, of the San Francisco Fire Department are this year’s honorees.

A selection committee appointed by the IAFC reviewed nominations for active chiefs of departments that have shown exemplary contributions in the areas of leadership, innovation, professional development, service to the public, and contributions to the fire service community as a whole. Sponsored by Pierce, the 2018 Fire Chief of the Year award recipients will be recognized during a presentation taking place on Thursday, August 9 during FRI’s general session at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.

2018 IAFC Fire Chief of the Year awards

Chief Leusch and Chief Hayes-White have had distinguished careers in their respective fire departments"

I look forward to the captivating moment each year when we share the nominations for the two Fire Chief of the Year award honorees,” said Jim Johnson, President of Pierce Manufacturing, adding “Chief Leusch and Chief Hayes-White have had distinguished careers in their respective fire departments. These two leaders have shown how to lead with grace, professionalism, and devotion that inspires others. On behalf of the Pierce Manufacturing team, we’d like to share heartfelt congratulations to Chiefs Leusch and Hayes-White.

Volunteer Fire Chief Honoree, Herbert Leusch, of the Glen Echo (Bethesda, Md.) Fire Department has over the last 25 years exhibited the highest standard for volunteer fire-rescue through extraordinary dedication. During his career, his competency and outstanding achievements have led him up the ranks from Firefighter to Deputy Chief, to his current position of Fire Chief which he took on nearly a decade ago with the Glen Echo Fire Department.

Glen Echo Fire Department Fire Chief honored

In his current role, Chief Leusch is responsible for all operational aspects of a combination fire department made up of 70 personnel, responding to over 2,200 calls a year. He has maintained the highest level of commitment to service throughout his distinguished career and has been an inspirational role model for others.

Some of Chief Leusch’s most notable accomplishments include successfully establishing a bicycle emergency response team, developing a heavy apparatus driver training program, building Advanced Life Support capabilities, and co-leading a firefighting task force in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Firefighting task force veteran

His exceptional leadership is evident not only through his actions, but also the recognition he’s received including a high-level citation for “Dedication and Heroic Service” in Maryland from US Congressman Chris Van Hollen, an official citation from the Maryland General Assembly for “Distinguished Service,” and multiple top-responder awards.

Not only is Chief Leusch a highly decorated and respected volunteer fire-rescuer, he has accomplished these achievements while excelling in his day job as Senior Principal at General Dynamics Information Systems. While juggling both his fire-rescue and professional career, Chief Leusch has made his family and continuing education top priorities. In conjunction with earning multiple graduate degrees and educating others in various areas of fire-rescue service, Chief Leusch is wholeheartedly committed to being a devoted husband and father. He genuinely epitomizes what it means to be a great volunteer fire chief. Chief Leusch is a clear representation of the highest ideals demonstrated by a Fire Chief of the Year.

Fire Safety responsibilities and duties

In 2004, Chief Hayes-White was sworn in as Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department

Career Fire Chief Honoree, Joanne Hayes-White of the San Francisco Fire Department began her career with fire department 28 years ago as she embarked on a journey that would take her up the ranks from Firefighter to Assistant Deputy Chief. Making an incredible impression along the way, in 2004, Chief Hayes-White was sworn in as Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department – the largest urban fire department in the world with a female chief. As a hands-on, collaborative and team-oriented leader, Chief Hayes-White takes pride in knowing most of the department’s 1,800 members by name.

During her tenure as Chief, she has instituted many vital changes, both in the department and externally, including the implementation of a random on-duty alcohol and drug testing policy, the reconfiguration of emergency medical services, and the restoration of promotional examinations – all of which have increased accountability and led to greater operational efficiency.

San Francisco Fire Department veteran

With the history of the San Francisco Fire Department under consent decree from 1988-1998, Chief Hayes-White worked diligently to improve diversity and inclusion in the department. Under her leadership, uniformed women personnel increased from 5% to 15% (with the national average between 3-4%) and the percentage of male and female minorities increased to 50%. This success resulted in the department being selected to participate in the Department of Labor Study on Promising Practices for Increasing Diversity Among First Responders.

While attending to many operational improvements, Chief Hayes-White also focused on outreach to the community with programs including the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, San Francisco Firefighters in Safety Education and a partnership with San Francisco Unified School district and the American Heart Association to incorporate CPR training into 9th grade curriculum.

Fire Chief of the Year

An active member of IAFC, Chief Hayes-White currently serves as a member of the Presidential Public Safety Officers’ Medal of Valor Board and has also served with the Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee, the National Advisory Council to FEMA, and the American Red Cross – Bay Area Chapter.

In 2010, Chief Hayes-White was selected to attend and complete the Senior Executives in State and Local Government course at Harvard, Kennedy School of Government. Her accomplishments are many, but what speaks most to why Chief Hayes-White’s embodies a true Fire Chief of the Year is the way her team describes her: decisive, energetic, collaborative, servant-leader, innovator, courageous, and down to earth. As proud as she is to serve as chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, Chief Hayes-White says her proudest accomplishment is being mom to her three sons, Riley, Logan and Sean, who will be with her in Dallas to accept the Fire Chief of the Year award.

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