Category: CPSE On the Road

 If Not Excellence, Then What? City Manager and Fire Chief Collaboration

Darin Atteberry, ICMA-CMCity MangerFort Collins, CO

Tom DeMint, CFOFire ChiefPoudre Fire Authority, CO

By Darin Atteberry, ICMA-CM, City Manager, Fort Collins, Colorado and Tom DeMint, CFO, Fire Chief, Poudre Fire Authority, Colorado
In order to provide the best service to their communities, fire chiefs and city managers must work collaboratively in pursuit of community safety. A strong working relationship between the executives of each organization is foundational to creating a positive environment where both agencies can succeed in reaching their objectives and providing the public safety services the community expects and deserves.
As the leaders of two very high performing organizations, successful collaboration requires that we have a strong working relationship. Ours is a little different than in many communities – Fort Collins’ fire protection is provided by Poudre Fire Authority (PFA), not a City fire department. While neither of us has direct supervisory authority over the other, our roles as CEOs of our respective organizations are deeply intertwined. The City Manager is the City’s chief executive and is one of five board members for PFA; the Chief is PFA’s chief executive and is a member of the City’s executive team.

Regardless of organizational structure, however, a primary challenge in any community is that fire is just one business unit within the city. While the fire chief is responsible for a core public safety function, it is still part of the much larger community that includes everything from police and utilities to streets and economic health.
Our friendship over the years has grown from a shared passion for our grandchildren and a good plate of barbecue, but the key strength of our working relationship is anchored in a shared pursuit of excellence in our respective organizations.
PFA received accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) in 2015 and the City of Fort Collins received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2017. These two programs are incredibly rigorous performance evaluation frameworks that have allowed both organizations to closely examine our operations, systems and processes in order to identify both strengths and areas for improvement.
Neither one of us believes consistently great results just happen organically through the hard work of competent staff. Simply believing that you’re doing a good job isn’t good enough – how do you know? What are you doing to ensure that you’re continuously improving and achieving objectives, and who is measuring that for you? While a high performing team can certainly deliver great results, the odds are much better and outcomes more consistent when you use an evaluation framework like Baldrige or CFAI.

Our focus on improvement isn’t about excellence for excellence’s sake; it’s in the service of our objective of being a safe community, and that is where the magic of our highly collaborative working relationship truly pays off.
One of the foremost responsibilities of local government is Community Risk Reduction, whether through fire protection and prevention, law enforcement, water quality, or timing traffic lights, just to name a few. There is not a service in a city organization that is not based in part on reducing risk to the community and creating a better place to live. And so, sometimes the role of a fire chief is to advocate for services outside of the fire department.
Because the PFA chief is part of the City’s executive team, he is able to advise and collaborate for the good of the entire community. When resources are limited and hard choices must be made, there are times when that role is no longer about advocating for another firefighter, but rather for an additional patrol officer, or a traffic light at a particular intersection; for back-office support needs in IT, or equity initiatives that ensure every member of the community feels welcome and valued.
By taking a holistic view of public safety, we can leverage our positions of influence to both look after the interests of our own organizations, while also supporting the broader needs of the community.
This collaborative approach to Community Risk Reduction ultimately stems from the fact that we are part of the whole community, and that the whole community plays an important role in creating our shared future. Each person in Fort Collins has a voice and perspective that is vital to helping the community grow together and address community challenges head-on.
We also all have a role to play in grieving together. The work of public safety is sometimes incredibly sad and hard. Like so many communities, Fort Collins has been through devastating floods, wildfires and tragic accidents. When a child is struck by a vehicle or a neighborhood evacuated, the role of our public agencies is to provide safety and information, but also to share in the emotion. Our neighbors need to know that they are loved and supported in the hard times and that their community—and yes, even their government—cares deeply about them and mourns with them.
This is another example of the importance of open communication between the City and PFA executives. When something happens that could land on the front page of the paper, we need to share it with each other to keep both our elected officials and the community as a whole aware of the situation.
Keeping our board or City Council informed during these situations isn’t just so they find out before the media; it’s because they are part of this community, too, and the community looks to them during times of both joy and grieving. Local government is not removed from the pain in our residents’ lives, and as community leaders they deserve to know when people are hurting and that they will have a role in holding hands with those who are impacted.

All of this reflects a commitment to excellence – to showing up in the very best ways that we can for the community, whether through our daily operations or in a time of crisis. Having spent our entire careers in the public sector, we both have a deep commitment to public service. We also both deeply believe that we can always get better at anything we do. It’s not that we’re never satisfied. Rather, it’s that we believe that one can be proud of their accomplishments while still recognizing that as the community, organization, and best practices evolve, there is always room to do things a little differently, and a little better. Those beliefs are not mutually exclusive, and Fort Collins deserves a municipal government and fire authority that do not settle for average.

Darin Atteberry is the city manager of Fort Collins, Colorado, a position he has held since December 2004, where he was the assistant city manager for over eight years, and is a member of the CPSE Board of Directors. Fort Collins is protected by the Poudre Fire Authority, a CFAI-accredited agency.
Mr. Atteberry serves as vice chair of the Alliance for Innovation and in 2013 was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Colorado State University College of Business. In 2016 he was elected as a Fellow with the National Academy of Public Administration. Recently, Mr. Atteberry received the Colorado Governor’s Citizenship medal, recognizing him as a leader who serves the public with innovation, operational excellence and progressive vision. Prior to coming to Fort Collins, he worked with cities in California, Washington, and Georgia.
Mr. Atteberry attended Harvard University’s Senior Executive Program in State and Local Government. He holds master’s degrees in Civil Engineering and City Planning, both from Georgia Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s in City and Regional Planning from California Polytechnic State University.

Tom DeMint is the Fire Chief of the Poudre Fire Authority (PFA) in Fort Collins Colorado. He has over 42 years of experience in fire and emergency services having served with the PFA for over 31 years and has been the Chief of the Authority for the past eight years. Poudre Fire Authority is accredited by the Commission for Fire Accreditation International and holds several other awards of distinction. Chief DeMint is the President of the Colorado State Fire Chiefs, the President of the Front Range Fire Consortium Authority, a member of the Partnership for Aging Friendly Communities (PAFC) Board of Directors, a member of the committee to build a Fort Collins community 911 Memorial and the Fort Collins Fire Museum Foundation. Chief DeMint holds a BS in Public Administration from Regis University in Denver, Colorado and is a credentialed Chief Fire Officer (CFO) and a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program.

CPC Welcomes Washington as New Commissioner

On November 1, the Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) welcomed Chief Toni Washington (CFO-2013) as a Commissioner representing Diversity. The CPSE Board of Directors unanimously approved her appointment.
Toni Washington is the chief of the City of Decatur, Georgia, Fire Department, which she has been with for almost 11 years. She has over 27 years in the fire service including thirteen years with the City of East Point Fire Department as a Fire Administrator, Lieutenant, and Deputy Chief and three years with the State of Georgia Fire Marshal.
Chief Washington holds a Masters in Managerial Leadership from National-Louis University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Savannah State University.
Toni is a Georgia Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) and a current member of the Executive Board for iWomen.
Chief Washington earned her Chief Fire Officer designation in 2013.
Learn more about the individuals that graciously volunteer their time to oversee the credentialing process.

Defining Your Role in Today’s Fire Service

Chief Todd Canale, CFO

By: Chief Todd Canale
I had the distinct privilege to speak at our department’s annual award banquet last week and address our incredible team of firefighters and their families. While preparing for the evening and deciding what to present, I quickly focused on our newly formed Professional Firefighters Association and the impact it has had on both the department and community.
I contemplated that our accomplishments would not be possible without the tenacious and professional contributions of all those involved in creating the synergy to move our quest forward. As I reflected on this, I came to the realization that this is very typical of the ethos within the fire service. Our charge is a no fail mission and, as a profession, we will often go to great lengths to ensure mission success. As we recognized our annual award recipients and reflected on our accomplishments from the prior year, it was also a time to identify and articulate the opportunities for the coming year. I challenged each of our firefighters to take an introspective look at where they are personally and professionally and had them consider this question, “What can I do today to make the fire service and myself better tomorrow?”
Personal Improvement
The fire service is ever evolving and its members must embrace the notion of life-long learning and continuous improvement. As department and community leaders embrace data-driven decisions, firefighters are finding themselves in search of new skill sets and abilities. While firefighters, as a rule, possess the aptitude to develop these skills, they need the means to take their abilities to the next level. The Center for Public Safety Excellence’s (CPSE) Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) provides department leaders just such a vehicle to enhance their professional prowess. CPC provides fire service leaders five different credentialing programs to enhance their professional skills. Credentials include:

Chief Fire Officer (CFO)
Chief Training Officer (CTO)
Chief EMS Officer (CEMSO)
Fire Officer (FO)
Fire Marshal (FM)

Credentialing provides proof of achievement and added credibility through a third-party rigorous process. In many professions, professional credentialing is often needed to practice or work at a stated level as in the case of an engineer’s Professional Engineer or architect’s Registered Architect designations. These credentials are not only expected, but often required. The fire service is trending in the same direction as organizational leaders are dealing with multi-million-dollar budgets, facilities and equipment, as well as hundreds of personnel.
The Commission on Professional Credentialing’s process is designed to fill this gap as the fire service continues to transition from a vocation to a profession. Each credential takes a “whole person” approach through the development of a portfolio that  includes education, training, certifications, professional affiliations, professional and community contributions, along with professional competencies over an individual’s career. Once the application process is completed, the candidate’s portfolio is scrutinized by trained peer reviewers and a series of interviews are conducted. Upon the recommendation of the peer reviewer, the CPC Commission will review and vote on the candidate prior to awarding the designation, and this rigorous credentialing process may take in excess of six-months to complete.
Credentialing is only one tool in a fire service leader’s toolbox. Organizational leaders are being tasked more often and to a greater degree than in the past and require additional skills to meet the needs of their community and elected leaders. Along with advanced degrees, certifications, and professional affiliations, department leaders are finding themselves on par with their contemporaries and must have the requisite knowledge and abilities to compete in today’s fiscally constrained environment. Credentialing provides such advantage to fire service leaders.
Organizational Development
As with personal improvement, it is incumbent upon fire service members to continuously strive to take their departments to the next level. Often, the culture of fire service organizations is such that the members typically assimilate to the norms and values of the department which can potentially stifle independent thinking and create a parochial environment. By employing ambidextrous leadership, leaders can foster both explorative and exploitive behaviors within their department. Much like the term implies, organizations can meet the needs of today while projecting for tomorrow simultaneously.
Being able to forecast and meet the demands of today’s fire service is imperative in terms of service delivery and customer satisfaction. Fire service leaders must be able to “exploit” their departments to this end, ensuring community leaders are aware of their fiscal, material, and personnel needs. While many departments do this well, they often fall short when it comes to “exploring” future needs and trends. Ambidextrous leadership enables department leaders to complete both tasks simultaneously.
One such tool to assist in their endeavor is the Commission on Fire Accreditation International’s (CFAI) Accreditation Model. CFAI provides departments with the guidance and tools to take an introspective view at their departments through an extensive self-assessment and development of both a community risk assessment and strategic plan. As with ambidextrous leadership, fire chiefs can assess or “exploit” their current state through a rigorous and comprehensive self-assessment and community risk assessment while “exploring” the future through the development of the strategic plan, thus, creating the roadmap for the future.
The Accreditation process is an in-depth, multi-year process that requires the department to transcend through multiple levels of status on its way to agency accreditation. When a department is interested in the process, they become a Registered Agency and establish a three-year data set of information while beginning work on a self-assessment that includes ten categories and 252 performance indicators. Once achieved, departments will transition to Applicant status, essentially an 18-month window during which a strategic plan and community risk assessment will be developed along with refining the self-assessment. Once this phase is completed, departments then move to Candidate status where they are visited by a peer assessment team over a five-day period and, if meeting all of the criteria, are recommended for Accreditation and are scheduled to appear at a CFAI hearing at either CPSE’s Excellence Conference or the International Association of Fire Chief’s Fire-Rescue International Conference. Once accredited, departments report their progress on an annual basis and go through the re-accreditation process every five years.
Synthesizing Your Role within the Organization
While it is impossible to predict where the fire service will be in the next twenty years, it is incumbent upon its leaders to position their departments to the best of their ability to face the challenges of tomorrow. Fire chiefs must create and foster an environment of continuous improvement for its members. As the fire service continues to transition, both personal/professional credentialing and agency accreditation are the vehicles to prepare our profession for the future. Firefighters must be prepared to face these challenges, and by capitalizing on these programs can be better prepared to do so. I challenge you to ask yourself, “What can I do today to make the fire service and myself better tomorrow?”

Todd M. Canale, MS, CFO, EFO, MIFireE, is the fire chief for Davis-Monthan AFB (Arizona) Fire Emergency Services. He is the DoD representative for the Commission on Professional Credentialing and Chairperson of the IAFC Federal-Military Section and has been a member of the IAFC since 2012.

Request for Information: 10th Edition Training and Publications

The Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) is conducting an update of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) model from the 9th to 10th edition. The performance indicators of the CFAI 10th edition will be finalized by the end of 2019. This will kick off an update of existing publications and training and the development of new ones. This Request for Information (RFI) is an opportunity for the members of the fire and emergency service and those that work with the community to indicate their interest in being a part of this update/creation process. Outlined below are the publication and training elements that will need to be developed and the steps for responding to this RFI. All elements must be available for public use no later than September 30, 2020.
Elements to be developed:

Primary publication:

Based on the 10th edition CFAI model
Utilizing the preface, chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, and the glossary from the 9th edition Fire and Emergency Service Self-Assessment Manual publication
Utilizing the 6th edition Community Risk Assessment Standards of Cover publication
Develop as a print publication

Research and Information Collection Guide

Utilizing chapter 4 from the 9th edition Fire and Emergency Service Self-Assessment Manual update to the 10th edition CFAI model
Develop as an electronic tool that can be populated by agencies seeking accreditation


Based on the 10th edition CFAI model
Incorporating the National Fire Protection Association standards, the Insurance Services Office Public Protection Classification, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Life Safety Initiatives
Develop as an electronic publication

Interpretation Guide

Utilizing existing guide update to the 10th edition CFAI Model
Develop as an electronic publication

Sample Self-Assessment Manual

Based on the 10th edition CFAI Model Category1
Generic to be used by all agency types and sizes
Develop as an electronic publication

Sample Community Risk Assessment Standards of Cover

Based on the 10th edition CFAI Model
Generic to be used by all agency types and sizes
Develop as an electronic publication

Sample Strategic Plan

Based on the 10th edition CFAI Model
Generic to be used by all agency types and sizes
Develop as an electronic publication

How To Get Started Video

Utilizing chapter 2 from the 9th edition Fire and Emergency Self-Assessment Manual
Develop as a multimedia video

Intro to Accreditation Video

Utilizing existing video update to the 10th edition CFAI Model
Develop as a multimedia video

Registered Agency Orientation Video

Utilizing existing video update to the 10th edition CFAI Model
Develop as a multimedia video

Quality Improvement Theory and Concepts Video

Based on the 10th edition CFAI model
Incorporate modern quality improvement theory and concept
Develop as a multimedia video

RFI Steps

Review elements to be developed
Determine which element(s) you/your organization can develop
Submit letter of interest:

Indicating which element(s) you are interested in developing
Providing an overview of how you would address the project management, technical writing, editing, layout, design, and production of the element(s).

If you are unable to address all six tasks, please still submit a letter of interest that addresses which tasks you could complete.

Providing a preliminary plan for developing the element(s) and completing the task(s).
Providing a time estimate for developing the element(s) and completing the task(s) and identifying when you would be available.

Submit statement of qualifications

For individuals, provide resume showcasing prior experience on similar projects
For organizations, identify team, their qualifications, and prior experience on similar projects

Letters of interest are to be directed to CPSE at with the subject “Response to RFI” no later than November 8th, 2019. Questions regarding this RFI can also be directed to CPSE at with the subject “Question re: RFI”.

Melissa Stevenson Diaz Appointed as New CPC Commissioner

On October 1, the Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) welcomed Ms. Melissa Stevenson Diaz as a Commissioner representing ICMA. The CPSE Board of Directors unanimously approved her appointment.
Melissa Stevenson Diaz is the city manager for the City of Redwood City, California, a position which she has held since October 2015.
Ms. Diaz has held various executive and leadership roles over her 24-year professional career in local government. Prior to joining Redwood City, she was the assistant city manager and interim city manager with the City of Mountain View. She has held positions in the cities of Freemont and Morgan Hill and was responsible for functions such as human resources, finance and budget, policy analysis, redevelopment and economic development, information technology management, community engagement and communications.
Ms. Diaz holds a Masters of Public Administration from San Jose State University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Mills College.
Learn more about the individuals that graciously volunteer their time to oversee the credentialing process.