Ricky J. 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 55th Convention in accordance with the provisions of Article VI, Section 3, of the International Association of Fire Fighters Constitution and By-Laws. The report contains a summary of activities within the 7th District from August 2018 through October 2020.

Since this date, 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 this International to the best of my ability. I have 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 the 7th District members in mind, but also with great regard for the interests of all IAFF members on the frontlines every day as well those in retirement. My specific duties as a member of the IAFF Executive Board include serving on a number of committees including Education and Training, Emergency Medical Services, Information and Technology, Governmental Affairs and Grants Administration. It has been my honor to attend and participate in all IAFF functions and sadly far too many line-of-duty memorials honoring our fallen brothers and sisters.

I write amid the COVID-19 outbreak that came to this office’s attention on February 28, when the first COVID-19 death in the USA occurred in Washington state. Operating in a team environment, the 7th District worked with IAFF HQ and its state association executive boards to put forth the best practices available to assure the best possible outcomes for our responding crews and the citizens we served. Kudos to local affiliate presidents at our “ground zero” Bryan Vadney (L2545), Gary Anderson (L2829), Ted Klinkenberg (L2950) and Andrew Oltman (L1604) that produced results that where a foundation of best practices used across the two countries. WSCFF Principal Officers Dennis Lawson and Greg Markley as well WSCFF E-Board members Keven Rojecki, Craig Soucy, Jeff Wainwright, Tim Hoover, Bill Mack, Mike Westland, Ryan Reese and Dean Shelton for their dedication during this critical event. A special thank you to IAFF AGP’s Pat Morrison and Jim Brinkley as well our Principal Officers Harold Schaitberger and Ed Kelly. This collective effort kept 7th District members as safe as possible when they were providing care for those that could not care for themselves.

Sadly, most of our 7th District events necessitated cancellation due to COVID-19’s travel and gathering restrictions, similar to IAFF events they have been postponed and/or rescheduled. You can find 2021 7th District events posted at www.iaff7thdistrict.org and we invite you all to attend if you are in the area. However, we have a recap of our last two years as follows.

The office of the 7th District actively creates new programs to benefit affiliate locals while continuing existing programs with constant review and improvement. With the assistance of District Field Service Representatives (DFSR) Curtis Smith (Pocatello Local 187) and Rod Harris (Anchorage Local 1264), a 7th District program known as “mini-education seminar series” has been enhanced and continues to educate members with workshops offered at the local grassroots level. The venues included firehouse training rooms, hotel meeting rooms and college campuses. Training topics were primarily workshops previously offered at ALTS, but also included specially designed courses specific to the location in which the training was delivered or the “hot issues” of the day. The customized courses were developed by the DFSRs or me. I thank AGP Jim Ridley and Director Matt Vinci for their continued support and assistance to me in this endeavor. I also thank former DFSRs Brian Hurley (19 years as DFSR) and Greg Womack (10 years as DFSR) for their long service to this Union and this Magnificent 7th District, and good luck to them in their new roles continuing to serve our membership.

The 7th District website continues to deliver information to all IAFF members with an interest in the activities of the IAFF 7th District on a 24 hour/7-day basis. Links to all state associations in the 7th District are accessible from 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 registered to the site. The website is available at www.iaff7thdistrict.org. We have also established a 7th DVP Facebook page, as well as a 7th District Twitter page and Instagram. Both Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are now utilized to disseminate information to the District and beyond. Also, a 7th District podcast was implemented in 2019 where we chat about the issues of the day. Special thanks to Reece Williams (L3427), Jasper Stenstrom (L726), Matt Lowery (L3520), Cameron Abel (L521), Paul Miranda (L1264) and Jay Wilkins (L3711) for their assistance to keep these social platforms fresh, timely and accurate. We will continue to consider various avenues of message delivery to assure timely uptake of news and other information by IAFF members.

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. Alaska hosted the caucus in 2018 and Idaho in 2019 with support from Fairbanks (L1324), Coeur D’ Alene (L710) and 7th District headquarters as the primary sponsors. The 2018 caucus focused the 7th District on responding to the JANUS decision from the SCOTUS and how we would collectively keep our Union together. In 2019, the 7th District focused on “building your narrative” and the importance of messaging utilizing story-based strategies. The 7th District Caucus is also sponsored by DiMartino Associates and MDA. The 7th District State Leadership Team functions together 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. Annually, each state association, in partnership with the 7th District Office, presents a joint education conference. The subject matter varies from generic classes to topics specific for the state in which the conference is held. Instructor backgrounds vary from local union members with expertise to state agency representatives. The 7th District office also partnered with the WSCFF, PFFI, MSCOPFF, AKPFFA and the HAMMER training facility to conduct an annual FIRE OPS 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 a small part of what fire fighters go through on a daily basis. Tri-City Locals 1052, 1296, 1433, I-24 and Walla Walla Local 404 deserve acknowledgement for the success of this program, as well my tail-boardman at retirement, Travis Leonard who I count on heavily to make this program happen. FIRE OPS 101 has been so successful in the 7th District, we have branched out to have an annual event in Boise. To date, the 7th District team has graduated over policy makers/shapers from the FIRE OPS 101 program. I wish to thank the many dedicated union leaders and fire service professionals who work to make these events a success. Special thanks to former Assistant to the General President Lori Moore-Merrell who was paramount to the success of these anticipated events, and good luck to her in all she does in the future.

Looking to the future, a new and exciting educational program was born out of the 7th District office in 2014, titled the “New Member Conference” (formally “Young Fire Fighter Conference”). The program is designed to be a part of succession planning for every local and state office, as well as this office as we educate and mentor new leaders. New Member Conference is limited to those local affiliate members born in 1985 and after or on the job for less than five years and thought (by local leaders) to be a shining star on the horizon for consideration for union leadership positions. This is a new concept versus the “it’s your turn in the barrel” concept practiced by too many of our affiliates. Since its inception, over 1,300 new members have participated in a 2 ½ day seminar learning IAFF history, labor history, politics, state association history, real-world views and where to gather information. This conference is an annual event in the 7th District.

As exciting as the program above is another new program born out of the 7th District office titled the “Executive Leadership Series” and tailored to those that have attended most IAFF classes in the past and have vast knowledge and experience. This program consists of eight two-day, in-person meetings over the course of a year. The meetings are held at locations throughout the 7th District. The focus of the meetings is to pass on knowledge, skills, education and training to members seeking higher office within the 7th District. Items learned will be advanced negotiations, organizing, mediations, presenting arbitrations, labor history, kindness, empathy and state politics. This is real successor training to assure the locals in the 7th District are served as our experienced leaders move on and new leaders come into office. Class I graduated (March 2019) 15 members that are now ready to take the reins from leadership to continue the success and commitment the 7th District exhibits daily. Class II starts in 2021 and is slated to graduate in 2022.

This office continues to service the locals of the Magnificent 7th with the assistance of IAFF headquarters and the state Executive Boards. The work of IAFF State Representatives, appointed by the General President after consult 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 achieve the success it has without the dedication of these Brothers and Sisters.

The Magnificent 7th District office continues to oversee the 7th District Benevolent Fund primarily to assist 7th District members when they hit bumps in the “road of life.” This has been a highly successful endeavor that has truly hit its target of existence. The dollars for the fund are generated by the members themselves through annual events such as the Shad Fishing Derby, the Rum and Diet golf tournament, the Longview Salmon Derby and the sales of Magnificent 7th District clothing. Held biannually, the 7th District Gala, held 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 in their time of need, annually 10 college scholarships are awarded to children of 7th District members entering their first post high school educational experience. Special acknowledgement goes out to Brother Bill Dodd (Local 710) for his expertise in the initial set up and continued support as the official 7th District Benevolent Fund accountant.

The 7th District perseveres in its support of FIREPAC, continuing to top the previous year’s total in 2018 and 2019. I want to recognize and give thanks to all IAFF state and local officers for their efforts and attention to FIREPAC, their state association PACs, as well their local affiliate PACs. AGP David Lang, Andy LaVigne and the entire staff of the IAFF Governmental Affairs Division are to be commended for assisting me and the members of the Magnificent 7th in achieving more dues check off locals than any other district translating to more contributing members. They are truly there when we need them!

The Magnificent 7th District not only gives dollars to 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 their state house in their bid to regaining a defined benefit pension plan for their members hired since 2006. Such a bill received a hearing this last session and at the time of this writing is still alive. Additionally, AKPFFA continues to work with the Governor’s office to assure public safety officers want to live, work and stay in Alaska.

In Washington, the WSCFF was actively engaged in elections and continues to make great strides to the point they have cleaned their “wish list.” That does not mean they have taken a seat as they have been focusing on assisting other workers in the goals they pursue. The PFFI worked hard in the governor’s race and has been given credit for electing Brad Little whom is working out very well for fire fighters and working Idahoans.

MSCOPFF finally got the ball into the end zone and passed presumptive legislation after a 20-year battle in Helena. There are so many names to mention I don’t have the space, but some are Joel Fassbinder, Dave Van Son, Brian Reed, Dave Maslowski, Derek Harvey, Joel Garetig and Governor Steve Bullock. Sadly, our Brother Jason Baker (L8) passed away before the signing of this long sought-after bill, one that he championed for most of his career as a MSCOPFF executive board member and we miss him greatly. Finally, in the political arena over the past two years, 10 members of the 7th District graduated from the IAFF Political Training Academy and many past 7th District PTA graduates continue to work at the IAFF’s pleasure 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 Magnificent 7th District as we continue to grow even in these uncertain political times.

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. We welcome two new state presidents as George Richards (L521) takes over the reins in Montana and Paul Miranda (L1264) in Alaska. They have talent and we expect great things from them both. As well, thank you to the state association Executive Board members, 7th DFSRs, and all IAFF 7th District Service Representatives. Without their sacrifice and support, the task of working for you would be beyond difficult. Additionally, I thank all of the staff at IAFF headquarters as they exhibit talent and dedication on a daily basis to assist the DVPs, state associations and locals of this great International. It is difficult to express the proper gratitude in words to GP Schaitberger and GST Kelly for their guidance and assistance to the 7th District and this District Vice President. I can only say thank you and I enjoy the journey that we share. Lastly, but not least, thank you to my family and my close friends for their sacrifice and understanding as I carry 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 entirely 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 to you by the Executive Board as they address issues that will benefit the members of this great International Union. This week demands your attention but is also a time of growth. Cultivate new relationships via text or Zoom and solidify old friendships as they are valuable beyond words, never to be taken for granted. Above all, enjoy your experience at our IAFF convention. Stay safe!