The Epitome of A Leader – Community Leader Interview Project

Remo Faedo Port Moody Fire Chief, Photo Credit Lisa King

For my leadership community leader interview I wanted to find someone who I was personally inspired by and look up to, or admire what they do. I considered a couple of options but after some thought I decided to pursue the Fire Chief of my home city, Port Moody. I did some research and identified that the current acting chief is Remo Faedo. I found the non-emergency phone number to contact the number one fire hall. After some phone tag and a few calls with the secretary at the main station I was able to set up a time to meet with Remo Faedo. It was an honour to be able to sit down and talk with him about some of the special and important things he and his team do in the community. I chose Remo because I really appreciate the work that fire fighters do in the community and at the top of it all is the chief. The chief of this organization needs to be an undeniably strong and fearless leader in dealing with all the different extensions of problems and events that fire fighters deal with daily. Overall, I felt that these were some of the most important qualities of a good leader and so I thought this would be a very valuable interview. I tried to focus on some of those things that I felt made him a good leader in the interview and really identify what the qualities are that make fire fighters such amazing people and leaders in general. As I talked to him, I understood more about some of these qualities.

Remo Faedo told me, when asked about any awards he has received over the years, that he has received awards from the city as well as both the provincial and federal governments. “The BC award is a service award,” which recognizes Faedo for 20 years of service, “and the exemplary award comes from the federal government.” The federal award, he told me, recognizes him for 25 years of exemplary service. “The city is typical years of service awards.” He also told me. Clearly from these measures I could see that Faedo has put in his fair share of work to get to where he is now and has dedicated a very significant amount of effort to his duty. He has also been involved in the work for a very long time.

Remo earlier explained to me how he first started out “wanting to do something for my community.” He began as a volunteer fire fighter in October of ’89 and “had the skill set and aptitude to become a volunteer fire fighter,” and “felt that that would be much more exciting than any other volunteer work the city could offer”. He then “became a career fire fighter in July of ’93, from which point he moved up to deputy chief in November of 2007 and he  made the final step to Fire Chief in July of 2009. In terms of training, experience was all he needed, and so as you can tell by his awards, he has worked hard to gain that. He did however take various courses, both fire related and some business related, as well in order to develop the knowledge side of things for his job. He has also been involved in some education programs over the years related to the fire service. All of this “put me in a position where I was able to apply for the fire chief job and be successful.” Nonetheless, he pointed out, the most important part was the on-job experience, “You can’t overlook experience.” he told me.

The most rewarding parts of the job, awards in the form of recognition you might say, are not those of the above mentioned sort he continued. “The ones that really impact you are the ones where you get cards or you get people that drop by that thank you for saving their life.” “Those are the most rewarding awards that you could get…that’s what drives us really more than anything else.” This is where I believe the work that Faedo, among his fellow fire fighters, has done and do is truly amazing. In terms of accomplishments and achievements you really cannot go farther than saving a person’s life, and that is what he and his co-workers strive to do every day.

He described to me a call the crew recently responded to at an apartment building on Clarke Road. I had heard of this fire as it had been on many news sources and was a big fire for Port Moody. Faedo said “It was an exceptional save by our crew, and I was very proud of our fire fighters and the work they accomplished.” Thinking about it, it is quite remarkable to hear the inside, which most people don’t usually hear, and really see how much work and effort goes into that fire we saw on the news. A fire where no one was killed and it appeared to be a situation that had been handled under control, but not for the  exceptional work of those fire fighters, it might have been a different news story.

But not only is the work Faedo and his team do post-emergency, no, Remo was very sure to include that it is a total strive to maintain a safe community for everyone. This includes preventative action to help stop injuries and fires before they happen, as he told me, “Anything predictable is preventable.”

Something else that I asked the Fire Chief about was the new fire hall that was finished just this year in Port Moody after what appeared as many years of need of repair and replacement. He was happy to tell me how “I was involved in the entire process, so for me it was really quite rewarding to have this built during my ten year’s fire chief.” After it had been “about a ten year process from when we identified the need to when we moved in.” He continued to say how “the building turned out wonderfully” and because of its “high profile location in the community” “we spend a little bit of time and effort and money to make it look nice.” This was also clearly something that was a big accomplishment for not only Remo Faedo but also the whole fire staff at the fire hall and is something that they take pride in now. I personally was impressed by the building from the inside, as I have been of the outside since it was built. It certainly makes me proud of our fire fighters when I see it and I think it is something that is very important to making them proud of what they do as it is such a key part of their life and work.

There are many things that point to exceptional qualities about Fire Chief Remo Faedo, from his many years of service and dedication to helping others, to his embodiment of the whole organization. I think to describe him as a leader, for me, first of all, his job is putting himself in danger in  order to save the lives of people who he most likely does not know. I think that that alone is an act of true leadership where he is not only putting others before himself but also going beyond what is asked of any regular person. It’s not expected that you will run into a burning building filled with smoke, not knowing what to expect when you get inside, and yet, that is exactly what fire fighters do. And all of those fire fighters, are led by the chief.

A chief who showed commitment and support of his team when he fought for a space that would put them in better health and comfort so they can focus on what they do. A chief who has dedicated much of his life to giving back to ordinary people. A chief, who like any other, has learned to overcome challenges and problem solve. Though he told me that he has not had any major obstacles throughout his career he said “the most difficult part of the job is dealing with people…everybody sees things differently and yet at the same time you have to work together.” He said this was probably his biggest challenge, “working with others in order to move forward as a department.” He mentioned the importance of how in this situation even if everyone didn’t get everything they wanted, everyone got something that they were happy with.” These are key pieces to any successful organization, and recognizing the value of these situations and outcomes is the sign of a good leader.

One of the most amazing things from the interview however, was when I asked the Fire Chief about what drives him to help people who he doesn’t know to this extent on a daily basis, and to commit so much of himself to doing so. I guess it wasn’t so much of a well thought out question in asking what drives you, but it was inspirational to hear him talk about how it is really something they specifically look for when hiring, and a trait that you need to excel in the job. That trait is, the drive and will to help others, and they look for a history of that in a person when hiring. It was in a sense moving just to feel that support as an average kid in the community that there are all of these amazing people who spend their lives, and would ultimately risk their lives to save yours. I know that’s something that I probably already knew factually, but I do find it quite empowering to see that organization first-hand, what these people can do with their own two hands.

I think these traits fairly speak for themselves as to why not only Remo Faedo but also all fire fighters are very effective community leaders. They are ones who will step up in times of trouble when everyone else is running away. They cooperate as a team to solve life-threatening problems on the fly. And they ultimately risk it all putting others’ lives before their own. I believe Remo is an effective community leader because he sets the example for all of these fire fighters and leads the way. He is the one inspiring them day-to-day and leading by example in the effort he has put towards the job.

For these qualities I find the fire chief very inspiring and it certainly makes me want to do my part in the community, even just with little things, of giving back, seeing all that he does to help others.

Oh, did I mention that not only does the fire hall put out the usual fire fighting duties, but also many charitable fundraisers where virtually every penny of what is raised goes directly to charities including the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation, the BC Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, and the Crossroads Hospice Society. The fire chief informed me of how “we raise upwards to $50,000 a year that we give to charity”. These events, such as the annual pancake breakfast, are put on by fire fighters in their spare time and also serve as community development functions where the community can come together in one place and share a good time. He said these events are “pretty special” because of how everyone comes together for a good cause and the positive affect they bring. He explained how “I was heavily involved in that when I was a fire fighter and I found that to be really rewarding.”

Overall, I think we can agree that Mr. Faedo does enough good in the community to cover about a thousand people, or more! I think these events are also a host ground for people to not only see what fire fighters do, but also become a part of something good giving back. These events are a direct act of inspiration for many people in the community, seeing what these men and women do for us, and wanting do to something for them but also for others.

Lastly, as the fire chief and I were discussing at a different point in the interview, “People appreciate the fire department most after they’ve needed their service”.  This was how I most directly came to appreciate what they do, seeing them respond and help someone who they have never met before, and this is how many people are also most thankful and inspired of what they do.

I will take many things away from this interview with the Port Moody Fire Chief, especially including a greater appreciation for the effort that these men and women put in to help us, average people, any people. I will also take away how giving back and helping others is such an empowering feeling, and how its important that everyone does their part to help themselves and others be safe everyday. Even small things can help, the important part is that you care. It was certainly very moving to see that entire organization as something that is real and not just a station of superheroes, and it really put it into perspective to see how much work is behind every call they respond to with such ease.

As a fun way to see how you feel about community leadership I have put together an online survey that I would love if you could complete! It’s just a few questions about what you think makes a good leader in an organization. Check it out in the link below:

Community Leader Survey!

Thank you very much for reading this post about a phenomenal local leader, and I hope you have a new understanding of the work that your local fire fighters do and how some of the things that they do make them such good leaders! If I may say so myself, I think that will save strangers at the risk of your own life, is the epitome of a good leader.

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