March 26, 2021 -- IMPORTANT SFFMA CONFERENCE UPDATE
Hello Texas Firefighters and Families,
I hope this finds each and every one of you healthy and safe.
It has, as you know, been quite the year. Your executive board and office staff have been working very hard to ensure the business of the association is being handled in the best way possible. I want to say thanks to the executive board, the Austin office staff and all of you for your perseverance during these difficult times.
During the past 1-2 weeks, I have received numerous calls from concerned members from every corner of the state about the conference. Most were very apprehensive about the travel to the Rio Grande Valley in June. The concerns ranged from COVID19 to immigration. These concerns are valid, and the executive board has taken them seriously.
Regarding COVID19, many areas in the state have seen a decrease in positive cases. The Rio Grande Valley has seen a reduction, although not as dramatic as in some areas. Many of your fellow members expressed this as a major concern. The board weighed many options related to the pandemic in our discussions including positivity rates, vaccination efforts and hospital capacity.
Regarding the immigration issue, more members had concerns surrounding the safety of our members as well as their families. Speaking with several members in the Valley, conditions are not ideal in the McAllen area and are expected to continue to be less than ideal in the coming months.
Armed with this information and taking the concerns from many members, the executive board met and made the difficult decision to cancel the conference in McAllen. This decision did not come easily. The Rio Grande Valley has a long history of producing some of the very best conference events and this year was lining up to be no exception. However, a successful conference requires participants, and the phone calls we have been receiving indicated many of our members simply would not attend in McAllen. So again, the decision was made to stop preparations for McAllen.
The executive board also recognizes the fact that a called meeting of the membership must be held. So the plan was developed to hold an abbreviated conference of some sort. Those details are still being worked out and will be distributed as soon as they are finalized. We predict the conference will open on Friday night, June 25, with a business meeting where nominations for officers will take place and some minor business items could take place. The meeting would be resumed Saturday morning with required reports being offered and elections and voting taking place. We predict we could wrap up Saturday events with a Presidential reception and then hold a memorial service Sunday morning, concluding June 27. Again, this is a rough draft and many details are being finalized and will be blasted out on every platform when they are completed. We did consult the Parliamentarian on this matter who provided expert guidance thru the process so that we are working within our guidelines.
Location for the event will be in Lubbock. The City of Lubbock has been in constant contact with me since the cancellation of the 2020 conference and has jumped on the chance to help meet our needs. Your Austin office staff is already in contact with the Lubbock Visitors Bureau and will complete the arrangements as soon as they can. This information will be included in the a blast to members as soon as it’s available. I ask you give us a few days to complete this information prior to trying to make your own arrangements in Lubbock.
Lastly, I want to offer my sincere gratitude to the Rio Grande Valley Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association. While we never thought a year ago we would be making any kind of these decisions, we never thought we would have to make this decision. The executive board of the Rio Grande Valley has been nothing less than professional and understanding as we worked through these issues. I also want to ensure the Rio Grande Valley this decision was in no means a reflection on the district or any of the first responders or hotels in the Valley. This was a decision based on research and feedback from our members. I want to let the Valley know WE WILL BE BACK as soon as we can and conditions permit.
I hope each and every one of you can make the trip to Lubbock. We will get the information to you as soon as we can. I encourage you to attend your district meeting if possible as someone from the executive board will be there to answer your questions and provide you updates.
Thank you again, and I hope to see you in Lubbock.
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.