Southern Missouri Professional Fire Fighters Local 152 members went “all in” for the April elections and it paid off. As a result of a well-developed campaign plan and high participation among the Local 152 membership, two former and retired members and one active member were elected to area fire protection boards, a sales tax renewal passed to benefit the City of Springfield’s police and fire pension and another member won his bid in a school board election.
Local 152 President Shawn Martin says this round of success is the result of years of determination. “Our members have been able to establish important political connections by emphasizing that our concerns solely revolve around public safety and that we do not favor one political party over another,” he says.
Martin says advice from the local’s recent IAFF Political Training Academy graduates – Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters President Tony Kelley (2010), Local 152 Political Director Eric Latimer (2008) and Local 152 Vice President Adam Carter (2014) – was also very helpful in the planning and execution of the campaigns.
In Springfield, IAFF members worked hard to gain support for the renewal of a .75 percent sales tax. Revenue from the tax goes toward bringing the city’s police and fire pension up to full funding. Voters responded overwhelmingly (76 percent) in favor of keeping the tax.
In 2008, the pension was funded at 33 percent. The .75 percent sales tax with a five-year sunset was passed the following year. The pension is now funded at 70 percent and is projected to reach 100 percent within five years.
“We felt it was important to maintain the tax until the pension is fully funded,” says Martin. To ensure the continuation of the tax, our members pushed our message out to voters in a variety of ways, including mailers, door-to-door canvassing and meetings with influential civic groups.
State law requires the city to keep the pension funded even if they have to pull from general city revenue. If the tax had not renewed, city leaders would have laid off employees and reduced services.
In Logan-Rogersville, Strafford and Nixa, Local 152 helped elect three fire fighter-friendly candidates to fire protection boards. Bryan Batey was elected in Logan-Rogersville and Bill Odom in Nixa. Both are retired fire fighters and former members of Local 152 in good standing. In addition, Kevin Binam, an active member, was elected in Strafford.
“Some board members have not always been friendly to fire fighters,” says Martin. “We knew the best way to build support would be to elect our own.”
Ed Cantrell, who is also retired and a former Local 152 member in good standing, wants to make a difference in the City of Republic school system. Members of Local 152 supported him and helped him win a seat on school board.
Southern Missouri Professional Fire Fighters Local 152 represents fire fighters in Springfield, Republic, Logan-Rogersville, Ozark, Nixa and Battlefield. Strafford is not yet organized.