Public Safety Insights Newsletter: There’s More than One Way to Build Your Legacy

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May 11, 2016 VOLUME 4, ISSUE 6
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Pat Lynch There’s More than One Way to Build Your Legacy

Public Safety Insight

Some legacies arise from heroic efforts on or off the fire ground. Most, however, are built on everyday actions, decisions, and choices that affect the community’s safety, health, and economic viability.

Dr. Pat Lynch  

There are very few professions whose members can say truthfully that their daily actions, choices, and decisions have a significant impact on their communities. Fire and rescue professionals belong to that elite group.

Recently I spoke with a battalion chief about his role in saving the life of a man who went into cardiac arrest. He mused that it had been a long time since he had felt that proud of being able to make a concrete difference in someone’s life. While I was pleased to see him recognize the value he provided in this situation, I felt dismayed that he remains blind to the broader, positive impact of his on-going leadership on the community’s safety, health, and economic viability.

Last week, Chief Dennis Mueller retired from the Lake Havasu City Fire Department after 35-1/2 years of service, including ten years as fire chief. One of the qualities I admire most about Chief Mueller is his acquisition of the skills needed to upgrade significantly the level of public safety in his community. Another is his relentless pursuit of public safety excellence. A third is his taking the time to set the new fire chief up for success by creating a treasure trove of information that documents as much of his considerable institutional knowledge as possible.

Here are a few of the ways that Chief Mueller built a legacy of elevated safety, health, and economic viability for his community on a daily basis. He:

  • Enabled informed decision-making by focusing on outcomes rather than on activities, and by providing viable options with descriptions of how each one would affect public safety.
  • Built bench strength by developing a succession process for both sworn and civilian Employees.
  • Increased the level of health care by establishing an effective community paramedicine Program.
  • Partnered with a local hospital to develop and implement the program, and to provide additional resources such as a nurse practitioner.
  • Replaced half his department’s aging apparatus in one year by demonstrating the need in a context that decision-makers could appreciate and support.
  • Won approval for an on-going vehicle replacement program.
  • Upgraded fire stations throughout the city.
  • Increased the trust of politicians and administrators by reducing the likelihood of budgetary surprises.
  • Created and implemented processes and tools that enable the department to manage its resources effectively, efficiently, and transparently.
  • Formed solid partnerships with internal and external stakeholders by educating them and by working collaboratively to gain their buy-in.
  • Shared credit for accomplishments widely.
  • Led by example.
  • Contributed to the profession by sharing his experiences and knowledge through articles, workshops, and conference presentations.

The above examples represent just a few concrete examples of how one fire chief built his legacy one day at a time. Though I know that Chief Mueller literally saved lives during his 35+ years on the job, his larger gift was in elevating significantly the level of safety, health, and economic viability of his entire community.
What will be your legacy? What are you doing today to build and expand it?

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


Date of publication: May 11, 2016

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