Outstanding affiliate leaders from across the IAFF were honored on the final day of the 56th Convention in Ottawa, Ontario, as the union presented its Local Leadership Awards.
The ability of the IAFF to defend and improve conditions for fire fighters and paramedics depends on the quality and dedication of thousands of local affiliate leaders. Every two years during Convention, Local Leadership Awards are presented to 16 outstanding affiliate leaders, one from each of the union’s 16 districts in the United States and Canada.
“We are strong because these leaders are in the trenches fighting for the rights and benefits of our 330,291 members. These brothers and sisters show what leadership is all about, and we are all proud of you,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly.
Each Local Leadership Award recipient was recognized on stage and presented with a carved glass award.
The 2022 IAFF Local Leadership Awards winners:
District 1 – Robert Yackel, President of Edison Fire Fighters Association Local 1197. A leader for more than 37 years in Edison, N.J., he fought for Local 1197’s first contract, established a PAC, won stipends for medical calls, and brought back laid off fire fighters.
District 2 – Mark Munger, Past President, Lincoln Fire Fighters Association Local 644. Creating a culture of hard work in Lincoln, Neb., he won a contract doubling fire fighter pay, engaged with the IAFF, and helped build the IAFF Financial Corp.
District 3 – Robert Whitbread, Past President of Bridgeport Local 834. Working tirelessly for more than 32 years in Bridgeport, Conn., he led all contract negotiations and hundreds of grievances. He was no pushover, regardless of who sat on the other side of the table.
District 4 – Paul Hebert, President of Emeritus, Prince William Professional Fire Fighters Local 2598. Taking on many roles over his 30-year career in Prince William County, Va., he promoted the union at every recruitment, boosting membership by 65 percent, and led the building of a new union hall.
District 5 – Steven Wilding, Secretary-Treasurer of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin. Working behind the scenes for his state affiliate, and as past president of Oak Creek, WI Local 1848, he used every tool in the bag to fight for pay and working conditions envied across the fire service.
District 6 – Jeff Clark, Past President of Burnaby Local 323. Unmatched in energy and tenacity, he led a successful fight for cancer presumption, helped elect a friendly mayor, led the creation of new union hall, and brought the World Police and Fire Games to Burnaby, British Columbia.
District 7 – Richard Kittinger, Trustee of the Washington State Council of Firefighters. Earning praise across Washington state as an outstanding trustee, through goods time and bad, he always engages in tough contract negotiations and takes the time to nurture future labor leaders.
District 8 – Dean Marks, President of Elyria Local 474. Boasting a two-decade legacy of leadership in Elyria, Ohio, he helped usher in an era of stronger staffing, a steady stream of new hires, fair pay, and respect from the community just outside of Cleveland. Locking arms with those that respect public safety has improved conditions for members and their families.
District 9 – Ryan Beaman, Executive Board Member of Clark County Local 1908. Fighting hard at the local level, he boasts a record of good contract with improved salaries and benefits for Clark County, Nev., fire fighters. At the state level, he committed four months during each legislative session to stand guard at the state capitol protecting fire fighter interests. He helped open a self-funded health clinic providing healthcare for 3,000 members.
District 10 – John Bagala, President of Marin Professional Fire Fighters Local 1775. A strong, respected local leader, he stepped up when COVID-19 hit and Marin County, Calif., listened. He made sure his brothers and sisters had what they needed to stay safe on the job. He made sure they had priority access to testing, paid time off, and access to vaccines.
District 11 – David Crow, President Emeritus of Arlington Professional Fire Fighters Local 1329. A dedicated leader who has been sweating the details for 32 years for his local outside of Dallas, Texas, boosting fire fighter voices with meet and confer, and working at the state level to help win cancer presumption and greater influence of pensions.
District 12 – Laurie Sweeney, Office Manager/Historian/Grievance Representative for Orange County Professional Fire Fighters Local 3631. Making herself indispensable, she dedicated her career to Orange County, Calif. fire fighters, accepting any challenge and using her expertise to help turn vicious attacks into convincing wins. Her hard work has improved the lives of Orange County Fire Fighters.
District 13 – Carmen Santoro, Past President of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. Fire fighters across Ontario, Canada, have benefited from 20 years of hard work from this determined and visionary leader. A political pro, he made things happen, including a presumptive law and a province-wide certification program ensuring all fire fighters are equally trained.
District 14 – Perry Jeselink, President of Monroe Local 629. A quiet leader who has done more listening than talking in his 28 years of service, he improved the lives of fire fighters in Monroe and across Louisiana, protecting their retirement income and making sure they have the best possible cancer presumption.
District 15 – Brendan Meagher, President of Halifax Local 268. This local leader took charge at the darkest of times and began turning problems into wins for fire fighters in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He organized a plan to fight back while mending relations with management, brought together a strong executive team, and won staffing increases. He improved cancer presumption for Nova Scotia fire fighters.
District 16 – Gregory Russell, President Emeritus of Local F-121, and IAFF Government Affairs Specialist. A selfless and approachable leader, he has used expertise in firefighting and union strategy to protect benefits and working conditions for federal fire fighters. Now he works at IAFF Headquarters, using his deep knowledge and commitment to promote our union’s interests in Washington.