Gene Prince: Achieving workforce diversity at GFR


Published: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.

In nearly 31 years of fire and emergency medical service in every rank from firefighter to fire chief, supporting workforce diversity has been a moral imperative in my professional development. The principle of equal opportunity is inscribed in federal law, state statute and Gainesville's Municipal Code of Ordinances.

The intent of these laws is to reflect societal ideals of fair standards that we as citizens of this great nation have set for ourselves. The city of Gainesville and its fire rescue service have gone a step further to reflect the values of this community by specifically including diversity as a core organizational value. Our values statement on diversity declares that we will maintain a viable workforce that reflects our community.

Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) implemented an affirmative action plan many years ago to ingrain diversity into its culture and practice. That plan is updated regularly and continues to pay huge dividends today. For me personally, a commitment to diversity means more than mere words on paper or any single hiring decision. It is a daily practice woven into the fabric of service within the fire department and stitched into city's hiring policies in compliance with the law.

Examination of fire department hiring practices over the past 20-year period demonstrates that the department has maintained its goal to reflect the diverse composition of our community. It is a fact that today more minority and female firefighters serve in the promoted ranks of GFR through the level of lieutenant than at any previous time in department history.

Minority and female firefighters in the fire department did not achieve promotion because of race or gender. They were promoted because they prepared themselves and participated in promotional processes that demonstrated their merit and fitness to advance. In a profession that requires public trust and confidence in a first responder's competence and experience, it has to be that way.

Minority and female firefighters have in the past and continue to serve in upper management positions at GFR. Others are following similar career paths and are now poised to compete for upper management positions in the near future along with their peers. As they compete, they will receive the same consideration as every other member of this department who has successfully promoted into upper management positions.

As fire chief, I am personally involved in the city's hiring process to assure that the recruitment net is cast broadly to secure a diverse, well-qualified field of candidates for every available position within the fire department. That is equal opportunity based on merit and fairness. And we all are better both professionally and personally for it.

These principles and values are at the forefront of how Gainesville Fire Rescue conducts its business. No organization is perfect, and Gainesville Fire Rescue is no exception. We can do better by consistently challenging ourselves to live up to the highest ideals of service to others, including equal opportunity for all.

That's how we will continue to successfully achieve diversity at all levels of our workforce. The citizens of our community and the women and men of Gainesville Fire Rescue deserve no less.

Gene Prince is chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue.

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