Atlanta, Georgia -- Chief Gary Ludwig, Champaign (Illinois) Fire Department, was installed Thursday, August 8, as IAFC President and Chairman of the Board.
Chief Ludwig will lead the association’s 18-member board of directors. He will serve as the association’s primary spokesman on national and international issues, testify on behalf of the organization at Congressional hearings and serve as the association’s representative dignitary. His term officially began Saturday, August 10.
During his inaugural address at Fire-Rescue International (FRI) in Atlanta, Georgia, Chief Ludwig said, "Raising my hand and swearing an oath was not a ceremonial high five. I assure you I am not going to warm a seat or just occupy a title. I plan on making a difference. I want to leave it better than I found it."
Also installed as 2019-2020 IAFC officers were Chief Richard Carrizzo, Southern Platte (Missouri) Fire Protection District as second vice president, and Chief Steven Locke, Burlington (Vermont) Fire Department as treasurer. 2018-2019 President Chief Dan Eggleston, Albemarle County (Virginia) Department of Fire Rescue, will continue to serve on the IAFC executive committee as immediate past president.
Read Chief Ludwig's Inaugural speech below:
Good morning everyone. They say, life is not about how many breaths you take – it is about the moments in your life that take your breath away. Along with the birth of my children, you have just witnessed a moment in my life that has taken my breath away.
For a kid who grew up on the streets of south side St. Louis to be sworn in as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs is something I never dreamt of or imagined. This moment is surreal, and I am humbled and honored beyond description to serve this esteemed association.
I would like to thank the membership for their vote of confidence and support by electing me.
There are also many others to thank for this honor. First, as a man of strong faith, I want to thank God. He has blessed my life with many opportunities that I know are not of my doing or the actions of any other human. I have clearly seen His hand at work many times in my life.
I want to thank all of those, and there many of you here today, who have wrapped your arms around me over the years with your friendship, counseling, mentoring, and sometimes tough love.
I wish I had the time to mention all your names, but you all know who you are, and I love you all very much for accepting me into your life as a brother and friend.
I am honored to have members of the Champaign community here. Our mayor, Deborah Frank Feinen took time out of her busy schedule to travel here. Since she has been on our city council, the City of Champaign has had had $2.4 billion in new construction.
We’re blessed to have her leadership and stewardship on our city council, along with our other council members and our City Manager Dorothy David.
One of my deputy fire chiefs and his wife are here to celebrate this special time with me. Chief Dorval Norwood has not only been an excellent administrator and a confidant, but a friend who always had my back and like all my chiefs and even my firefighters, always has permission to come into my office, close the door, and tell me when they feel I am making a mistake.
I am blessed to have members of my union here. Firefighters from Local 1260 made the trek to mark this special day in my life. I am thrilled to have Captain Chuck Sullivan, Lieutenant Pat Devaney, and Big City Jake Carlson here. Pat also serves as the president of the Illinois Firefighter’s Association representing all the union members in the state. I cherish the fantastic relationship I have with my firefighters and my union.
As one of the fire chiefs I worked for in St. Louis taught me, “If your surround yourself with good people, they make you and the department look good.” I am fortunate to be surrounded with excellent firefighters and employees dedicated to public service.
Some that are not here but I wish they were include my father and mother who now bask in the glory of God’s presence. My father taught me to be a man. He served as role model to me on how to take care of and have unconditional love for your family.
My mother taught me to be a servant to others, respect others regardless of who or what they are, and how to love each other. I miss them both.
I wish my son Tyler was here. He is not. However, I could not be more proud of him. He is a 2nd Lieutenant serving in the United States Air Force and is currently undergoing rigorous training to become a fighter pilot. The program is just too intense for him to get away.
My daughter, Nicole, Josh Taylor, and my two grandchildren, Paige and Hayden are here. Like my son, I am equally proud of my daughter and the success she has achieved in her personal and professional life. Lastly, my wife Patricia has always stood by my side and has given me encouragement and support, even sacrificing her own needs to lift me up in my career. I would not be standing here today if it was not for Pat, Nicole and Tyler. They are the wind beneath my wings and the oxygen that runs in my blood. They sustain me. I love you all!
I want to thank my friend and brother Chief Dan Eggleston for providing us with his leadership for the last year. I have big shoes to fill. He is a true leader in every sense of the word. Thanks to my friend and brother Chief Tom Jenkins who steps off the board as the past president. Both Dan and Tom have been role models for me on how an IAFC President should lead and serve. I hope I can live up to their standards. I also want to thank Chiefs Otto Drozd, Jerry Rhodes, Keith Brown and Larry Few for their service as they step off the IAFC Board of Directors.
I want to congratulate my friends and brothers Chiefs Rich Carrizzo and Steve Locke for also being sworn into their elected offices. It will be an honor to serve with all of you. I’m stepping into my new role at a time when there are some challenges for our association. But I am not worried or concerned.
The reason I am not worried is because it not those challenges or problems that defines us – it is how we as leaders handle those challenges and problems. As leaders, we should look at challenges as opportunities and not problems.
They are not difficulties but moments to improve. And when we do so, our association becomes stronger and even more vibrant.
I have complete confidence that we will come through the issues that confront us because of the caliber of the chiefs on the IAFC Board of Directors and the capabilities of the IAFC staff. I am excited for our future and I look forward to serving with the IAFC Board of Directors and staff. They’re all dedicated professionals who have the best interest of the fire service and our association at heart.
I’ve been asked the question many times – so want are you going to do as IAFC President. Well I can tell you, raising my hand and swearing an oath was not a ceremonial high five. I assure you I am not going to warm a seat or just occupy a title. I plan on making a difference. I want to leave it better than I found it.
You’ll hear much over the next year about my program to reduce firefighter cardiac deaths called, “If You Don’t Feel Well – Don’t Make It Your Farewell.”
We’re hitting the ground running. The committee is scheduled to have their first meeting tomorrow morning here at FRI.
Over the next year, you’ll hear me challenge those chiefs who are not members of our Association to join – especially if they are riding our coattails by getting AFG and SAFER grants through our lobbying efforts in Washington DC. I encourage you to also challenge them to join our association. You’ll see efforts and strategies on my part as well as the IAFC staff to increase our brand. I feel it is vital to increase our influence nationally and expand our outreach internationally.
Lastly, I have already directed staff to explore the possibility that as chief officers, our association lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington cemetery each year to show our solidarity with the military who has been handed the mantle for the fight on terrorism.
So I begin to close. I wish you to know this. Over the next year, I will serve and fulfill my role with professionalism and pride. I will adhere to my principles of servant leadership by serving others before self. I will dream unapologetically of the unlimited possibilities for our association and I will lead with passion. Thank you and may God bless all of you!
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more