Purdy Fire Chief Redshaw hangs helmet

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Purdy Fire Chief Nick Mercer, left, and Purdy Fire Protection District Board Member Mike Bennett, right, present a plaque to Mike Redshaw honoring his 20 years of service at the district, including 15 years as chief. Redshaw retired from the post in June. Contributed photo

Mercer now chief at Purdy Fire Protection District

After 20 years of serving the community, Purdy Fire Chief Mike Redshaw hung his helmet for the last time, as he has resigned from the post after 20 years with the organization.

In the letter, Redshaw cited increasing time demands from family and his profession, as well as an impending relocation as reasons for his departure. He emphasized there was no negative reasons for the departure.

Mike Redshaw, left, former chief of the Purdy Fire Protection District, hands over the chief helmet to Nick Mercer, the new chief. Redshaw served 20 years at the district, seeing it change from a department to a district, and being awarded a number of grants for equipment. Contributed photo

Redshaw joined the Purdy Fire Department in May of 1995 as a volunteer firefighter under Chief JD Pennington. He was promoted to Chief in May 2000 by then-Mayor Curtis Betterton. When the Department became a district in 2007, the District Board kept him in the position.

"When I joined, I never expected to do more than help out," he said. "However, it turned into much more. The more I learned, and the more training I attended, the more I got into it, and it led to a profession and career for me."

Looking back at his time with the department, Redshaw said it is the members of the department that has made his job easier.
"I got lucky when I was appointed chief, as there were only four of us left after Chief Pennington and the others resigned," he said. "But, we had good guys and were able to recruit several more members who were committed to making the department better.

"I've always told our folks, if you surround yourself with good people, they'll make you look good. The men and women who have served under me have done just that."

During his tenure as chief, Redshaw gained notoriety for his abilities as a grant writer, obtaining over $800,000, and over $1 million collectively, in funds from various grant sources to purchase equipment for the organization. In 2007, the Purdy Fire Protection District was the first department in the nation to obtain two apparatus from the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, a distinction Redshaw says he takes great pride in. The District was also one of only a handful of agencies, including fire, law enforcement, and EMS, that obtained a Polaris Ranger through the US Smokeless Tobacco Operation Ranger grant program in 2006. 
Such success led to his attendance at invitation-only grant seminars advertised as being for the best minds in grant writing in the U.S.

His success in the grant game is what Redshaw contributes to another accomplishment -- lowering the District's ISO rating.

The rating is determined by the Insurance Services Office and rates the department's ability to provide fire suppression for the community. The rating is based on a 1-10 scale, with a 1 being the best possible rating. Purdy was rated an 8 when Redshaw was appointed.

After several years at the helm, Redshaw hosted ISO in 2007 for a review. That review led to Purdy's rating being dropped to a 5.

Redshaw said the rating helped the change to the Purdy Fire Protection District to pass at the polls, which he believes to be his greatest accomplishment while chief.

"By getting the District passed, we were able to establish a solid funding stream for fire protection in Purdy," he said.

Prior to voter approval, fire protection was funded by rural memberships and a contribution from the city of Purdy's general budget. The budget was typically between $20,000 to $25,000 per year. Since the inception of the tax-based mechanism, the District receives approximately $65,000 annually.

"This is a service that is constantly seeing new innovations in equipment and tactics, and with that comes the need for the funding to make those changes," Redshaw said. "Grants have given us the ability to reach the level that we need to be at, and the increase in budget has given us the capability to maintain it."

Redshaw said the tax-based district was a goal he had early on, recognizing the need for more funding.

"Being able to serve the community I was raised in and have spent the vast majority of my life in has been an honor," he said. "My family has a long history of service, and this was a way for me to serve, and I'm proud to have been given the opportunity and honored that the community has trusted me with the great responsibility of being the chief, and for the people that have come, gone, and will be here after I leave that have trusted me to lead them

Appointed to replace Redshaw was Nick Mercer. Mercer is an eight-year veteran of the District and has been assisting Redshaw with administrative tasks for some time, learning the position.
"I believe in succession planning and wanted to make sure when the day came that I decided to hang it up, that there should be someone ready to take the reins," Redshaw said. "While he's young, as I was when I was appointed, Nick is very well educated in emergency service and is willing to keep learning. He's got a good head and wants to see the District become better, so I think he'll do a great job."

Mercer holds numerous certificates and licenses in emergency services. Along with his Firefighter I&II and instructor certifications, Mercer is also a licensed Paramedic and Registered Nurse with several years of

experience in EMS.

The District held a ceremony at the June board meeting to make the change official. When making the appointment of the new chief, Redshaw recommended Mercer for the position, saying he was the logical choice. Redshaw handed over the chief's helmet with the "720" designator for the chief of the District.
The board surprised and honored Redshaw at the meeting. The outgoing chief was presented with a plaque commemorating his 20 years of service and 15 years as the chief of the department. 
Board President Mike Bennett made the presentation.

"While we certainly hate to see you leave, we appreciate the service you have provided and the sacrifices made by you, your wife, and your children during your service to the community," he told Redshaw.
Despite his resignation, Redshaw says he will be available to the new chief and the board for any questions and to assist the new leadership.

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