By Nicole Hennessy
On Aug. 30, 2013, Edward Schepp took over as North Olmsted’s fire chief. New to North Olmsted, he’s spent the past few months settling into his new role and surroundings. In a question and answer session with West Life just after the new year, he had this to say:
WL: It’s been almost six months; how have you been settling into your new position?
Schepp: Quite well. There’s been a couple challenges here and there, but it’s nothing that we can’t overcome. The guys have been great to work with and we’re building a relationship and a teamwork approach to deal with any issues that happen to befall us.
WL: You mentioned a few challenges, which is normal for any position; can you speak on what a few of those might be?
Schepp: When you come into an organization you have certain passions or ways of doing things that are pretty much ingrained into the organization. They have a culture that they pretty much live by and the challenges are either adapting to them or trying to create new cultures that meet the goals of what we’re trying to accomplish.
WL: I know you’re coming from Fairlawn; how has the transition been?
Schepp: The two communities (North Olmsted and Fairlawn) are very similar. The biggest difference is in size, and it’s all relational. For instance, Fairlawn has a mall, North Olmsted has a mall. The fire departments both do the same things and the communities have a similar makeup. So, trying to make an adjustment was just a difference in terms of size and quantity. Down there (in Fairlawn), we didn’t run as often, but we had very similar types of calls.
WL: What are some of the things you’re hoping to accomplish within your first few years in North Olmsted?
Schepp: One of the things I definitely want to do is make sure that we provide a level of service that’s either as good as or better than what we are currently providing. The other thing is to continue to build relationships, not just internally with our bargaining unit and our firefighters, but within the city, through working with our planning committees, our service department, our police department, and then, on top of that, to work with our surrounding neighbors, because I want to be sensitive to their needs, also. We need them just as much as they need us.
WL: It’s interesting that you mention that, because of the possible regionalization of some of our area fire departments. Is that something that you’ve either been following or have read up on?
Schepp: Regionalization seems like the big buzzword in the state right now. Depending on where you’re at, it could be something that saves you money or it could also be something that is a drain on your system. It depends on how it’s administered, how it’s developed, how it’s created. In the organizations I came from, we operated in a regional approach without becoming a fire district. In many times, we operated as one fire department, but we still kept our own identity without going to that step of regionalization; because regionalization, it has to be something that you have to do it right. There’s no redos. You either get it right or you set yourself up for failure.
WL: What I’m getting from that response is more of an agreement among cities as a trial rather than something that’s in legislation or charters.
Schepp: That’s the kind of thing we did where I came from. We didn’t jump into things that we weren’t sure were gonna work. We took steps toward accomplishing a goal of providing the best emergency services that we can. That goal of meeting the best emergency service that you can; is it in regionalization? Is it in mutual aid working agreements? Is it in automatic responses? That’s the kind of thing you’ll have to examine and develop as you look into a regionalization type of approach.
WL: What do you think is one of the most interesting aspects of being a fire chief?
Schepp: I think one of the biggest aspects is to try and remember where you came from … and to maintain a sense of what’s right for the community, what’s right for the administration and what’s right for the firefighters. You have to balance all those three.
WL: How would you describe your leadership style?
Schepp: I would say it’s probably one of participation. It depends on how you perceive the organization and, for me, it’s more like leading by example. I won’t ask the guys to do something I’m not willing to do myself. You lead by example and treat people the way they want to be treated.