Good things are happening for Mount Pleasant, SC Local 4693, including winning approval for a five-year plan to increase staffing and other fire department resources.
With help from the IAFF and the South Carolina Professional Fire Fighters Association (SCPFFA), Local 4693 backed a fire fighter-friendly candidate who is making public safety a priority, while also affecting a change in department leadership.
“This five-year plan will help our members respond more safely and effectively to emergencies,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “I commend the SCPFFA and Mount Pleasant Local 4693 for all their incredible work and determination.”
“The success of this effort shows what happens when you don’t give up,” says 12th District Vice President Walt Dix. “The result will mean our members will be safer on the job and be able to deliver a better service to the community.”
In recent years, the population in Mount Pleasant has grown and the number of emergency calls has also increased, while fire department resources — including the number of fire fighters — have not.
Two years ago, when General President Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly and 12th District Vice President Dix stopped by one of Mount Pleasant’s fire stations to meet with members, the discussion on staffing ended abruptly when then-Fire Chief Herbert Williams asked them to leave.
“We knew we needed to bring about change,” says SCPFFA Vice President Bill Pesature. “We needed to become more politically involved.”
Seeing the local’s concerns about staffing, retired Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 member Kevin Cunnane, who had moved to Mount Pleasant, decided to run for town council. With support from the IAFF and the SCPFFA, Cunnane won a special election to finish out the unexpired term of Will Haynie, who had been elected mayor.
Cunnane worked to educate the town’s decision makers, holding regular meetings to discuss the impact of inadequate resources on public and fire fighter safety.
Meanwhile, when Chief Williams retired in 2018, the fire department promoted Mike Mixon, a 15-year veteran of the Mount Pleasant Fire Department, to deputy chief. As a result, two veteran fire fighters moved into the second and third top-ranking department positions.
Local 4693 President Luke Witherspoon says, “They know first-hand the challenges we have been facing. That helped a lot.”
As part of the five-year plan, the town has increased the fire department’s budget by $250,000, hired six fire fighters and applied for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The goal is to have four fire fighters on every apparatus.
“It is certainly a step in the right direction,” says Witherspoon. Other challenges include increasing wages to be more competitive with surrounding municipal departments.