Shortly after I took over as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Garry Briese announced he was stepping down as the IAFC’s executive director. After 22 years as its leader, Garry is leaving the IAFC in February to join the private sector as a vice president in the Homeland and National Security Practice of ICF International, a Fairfax, Va.-based consulting firm.
If you’ve ever had the honor to sit in on one of Garry’s seminars or presentations, you know he has a vision for the fire service. During his tenure at the IAFC, he proved himself a visionary and a leader, both for the association and for the fire service. He introduced many changes and oversaw the growth of the organization, helping to make the IAFC the premier fire service organization it is today.
When Garry joined the IAFC, the organization was on the brink of collapse. His first responsibility was to somehow pay the monthly invoices; then he began the hard work needed to put the IAFC on solid financial footing. Each year, he balanced the budget without tapping reserve funds. Organizations end up in trouble by tapping reserve funds for ordinary expenses, and Garry knows it.
He also knows it’s dangerous to rely too much on one primary source of income, such as Fire-Rescue International (FRI), so he found other income sources to reduce how much FRI has to contribute to the bottom line. Through Garry’s leadership, the IAFC has achieved the solid financial foundation so necessary to its success.
n the 1990s, Garry further shored up that foundationàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚ƒàƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚ƒàƒ‚à‚‚àƒƒà‚‚àƒ‚à‚¿ by leading the move of the IAFC headquarters from a building basement in Washington, D.C., to its own building in Fairfax, Va. This move brought the IAFC an additional source of income through rental space, and it provided the IAFC staff the elbowroom they needed to grow.
The IAFC puts on a great conference every year, reflecting Garry’s belief that “If you provide it, they will come.” He gave FRI a flair that sets it apart from other conferences.
What can a person say about Garry’s knowledge of Washington? Through Garry’s efforts, the IAFC has developed contacts at the White House and on Capitol Hill, allowing us to stand on solid ground with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. We have become the trusted voice of the fire service in Washington; when a catastrophe occurs, we draw on the expertise of our members to provide Congress with the information it needs to respond effectively. The IAFC earned a great reputation through Garry’s administration and leadership.
Garry worked hard for the fire service. He challenged us to make good decisions, and he preached the importance of integrity in the fire service-how it must come first. Garry demonstrates an outright honesty and a compassion for the fire service; he stands by his commitment and love of the organization to make his point. I respect him for that because, simply put, he is a leader and leaders stand for what is right. We all have learned from Garry’s wisdom and honesty.
Yes, Garry is leaving; we knew that someday he would. The IAFC must carry his vision into the future. We must remain on the cutting edge of the fire service. Most importantly, this great organization must maintain its integrity and honesty, and not fall into the trenches of the unbelievable or the untrustworthy, either in our communities or in Washington. We owe this to our organization and, more importantly, we owe it to what Garry has taught us.
Training Tip No. 5
It’s a New Year. Make it your New Year’s resolution to take 10,000 steps every day. Make a plan to incorporate walking into your daily routine as a commitment; then keep your commitment. Your heart will thank you for your hard work!