November 5, 2020
I hope this finds you all safe and well.
It’s hard to believe but, with the holidays near, our January Planning Conference is just around the corner. While many things continue to have a level of uncertainty, we are still planning on holding the Annual Training Conference and Convention in McAllen in June.
In regard to the Planning Conference, things will need to be quite different this year. Our main focus when trying to develop a plan that would suit our needs and still complete the objectives for planning was SAFETY. Your Executive Board has met by Zoom and has developed a workable plan to ensure that all the work required gets completed in a safe manner.
Traditionally, the Planning Conference was a meeting point for all committees to get together face-to-face and conduct their business while other members were in the process of planning the actual conference. Structurally this process will remain the same, but the location and meeting platforms will need to change due to COVID19.
The plan includes a single site visit to McAllen in early December with a very limited number of people, primarily those who have a true need to see the facilities. We have worked closely with the City of McAllen securing alternate sites for exhibit hall and meeting functions in the event the conference center was forced into use as a field hospital. We believe, as of this writing, that will not be necessary but we also know this is an evolving process so we will need to be flexible.
Next, during the December-January time frame, committee chairs who have responsibilities at the June conference should schedule a meeting with their committees. It will be up to the chairperson of the committee as to what platform is utilized. Our Austin staff can assist you with setting up a Zoom meeting or if needed, the Austin office can be made available for in-person meetings. The goal is to have these committee meetings completed by January 20th.
Finally, the actual planning conference will take place in Austin at SFFMA offices, January 29 and 30. We will divide the Executive Board up into 1-3 groups, to comply with gathering rules in place in the county, on Friday January 29th. We will invite a representative or their designee(s) from each committee with responsibilities during the conference, to the Austin office to give a report on their respective committee’s work to the Executive Board subcommittee. These committees would include, but are not limited to, Exhibits, Driving Contest, Pumper Race, Memorial, Sergeant-at-Arms and Speaker Selection. One of the Executive Board subcommittees will also make plans to visit with TEEX to finalize logistics of the conference. On Saturday, January 30th, the full Executive Board will come together to hear the reports from the subcommittees, discuss any action needed, and review the conference agenda. Committee representatives wishing to address the Executive Board will be welcome and encouraged to attend as long as we adhere to all gathering regulations. It is anticipated the actual planning meeting on Saturday could be completed by noon.
I understand this is not the “normal” planning conference format. The Executive Board felt that this would provide the means to plan the conference while maintaining the safest environment possible.
Additionally, we will be hosting a Zoom meeting to discuss these plans with the districts. The meeting will be open to all district presidents and secretaries or their designees. The focus of the Zoom will be to update everyone on the business of the association, discuss any needs the districts have, discuss the format of the planning conference and answer any questions the district representatives may have.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your dedication to the citizens of the state. These are very trying times, but we will all see the other side. I also want to thank you for your patience. I know it seems the information flow has been very limited, but we have not had much information to share. So many questions remain, and unfortunately, this will likely be the case right up to the time of the convention. The situation is ever changing, and we will need to be open minded to the sacrifices we might need to make. As of today, I am not expecting many changes to the general format of the convention. However, as the time draws near, we will need to evaluate the current environment and adjust as necessary.
October 1, 2020
Hello Texas Firefighters!
I am sad to say this is my first blog post. As all of you know, it has been a very busy year. Who would have thought we would ever be facing the problems we have in the world now? Certainly, none of us. But, as firefighters and first responders, we adapt and overcome and learn to cope.
We are making plans for McAllen as we speak. While we know the convention did not work out for Lubbock, we appreciate all the survey responses sent into the board. All of us read and examined each one of them, discussed them in depth and really tried our best to make the right decision for the good of the Association. The decision was certainly not taken lightly. However, at the end of the day, to keep our membership safe and do our part to reduce the spread of COVID19, the difficult decision to cancel the 144th Convention had to be made. I want you to know, the entire Executive Board agreed to cancel, as difficult as it was. We knew in our hearts, and from the little we know about COVID19, this was the best for all of us. This was very difficult, as this had only been done twice in the history of the SFFMA. Once in 1918 and again in 1945…both as a result of World Wars. As a result of the cancellation, however, we were in limbo about how to elevate the officers and install a new 4th VP. After many conversations, research, and consultation with the Parliamentarian, the board did agree to remain in place and not elevate. We did not take this lightly at all, but we really had no precedent to guide the decision making process. Ultimately, the board decided to remain in place and proceed as normal as we could with the business of the association.
Your elected officers did not sit for long. We facilitated several ZOOM meetings to keep the business moving forward. We continued our usual work with the Austin office, our lobbyist, committee chairs as well as the districts, departments and individual members. Many of the questions before us centered around how to handle business and elections at the district level. The Executive Board explained our situation and helped guide the districts the best we could, explaining the whole time that this is new to everyone and no right answer exists. Many of the districts held ZOOM meetings and elevated their officers and even placed new officers in place if the race was uncontested. Those elections with more than one candidate were delayed and the officers stayed in place in most instances.
We have been busy establishing our legislative priorities. Make no mistake, the legislative session this year will look like no other anyone has ever seen. Committee meetings will be held but as it stands now, just limited number of people in the room together. This will make every effort tougher than it already is. We will make sure we are on top of all the issues and fight to keep what we have and will most likely struggle to gain anything new.
We have been seeing a few district meetings pop up. This is very exciting, and we are ready to hit the road to make those visits. North Texas District recently held their meeting and it was a complete success. They successfully held a good meeting, took care of business and were able to serve a meal, all while maintaining the proper social distancing to ensure safety. Great job! I also know Central and the Permian Basin have meetings scheduled in the next few weeks. I encourage all the districts to make every effort to hold some sort of meeting, be it in person or virtual. Please let one of the board members or the state office know of the date, time and location so that we may post it on the website and make plans to attend.
Speaking of website, you asked, and we listened! Meeting minutes are now posted, and we are working very hard to keep the committee rosters and the minutes section up to date. We are also working on different ways to improve the website and improve communications across the state.
We are making arrangements now for the planning conference in McAllen. As you know, Hidalgo County is considered a hot spot for COVID19 as of this writing. Some hospitals are reporting a greater than 20% COVID admission rate. This changes a lot of the dynamics surrounding the conference including who and how many can attend. Some still have travel restrictions in place (this was a major factor in the cancellation of Lubbock), and some venues are still limiting the number for gathering. So, we are working with the visitor center there and with Rio Grande Valley District to see what exactly this planning conference will look like. We WILL have a planning conference of some sort, but it may not look like it always has in the past. We are in different times. We may need to make concessions to the structure or makeup of the conference, to number of attendees, to the venue or even to the location of the actual meetings. We simply do not know yet.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for putting the trust and support into the Board. We are honored and proud to serve the firefighters of Texas and will do everything in our power to make sure YOU are represented in the right manner.
Last piece of advice:
Wash your hands
Cover your cough
Stay home if you are sick
Above all, stay safe.