The Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association (MSFCA) has selected White Bear Lake Fire Chief Greg Peterson as its 2021 Fire Officer of the Year (population over 10,000).

Peterson was appointed fire chief of the White Bear Lake department in September 2017. Since his appointment, he has thoughtfully navigated significant operational changes. In May 2018, for example, the city transitioned its in-house 911 dispatching services to Ramsey County’s Emergency Communications Center. This involved a complete overhaul of the department’s response protocols, changes that were seamless under Peterson’s leadership. 

Later in 2018, the fire department began to transition from a mostly part-time, paid-on-call model to a 24/7 staffed combination model that relies on 12 full-time positions supplemented by part-time duty crews. This involved the creation of entirely new operational protocols to replace longstanding traditions and policies. Additionally, both stations were retrofitted for sleeping quarters, a pay structure was created and a significant recruitment and hiring process was instituted. Peterson was intimately involved in each of these tasks, including his personal involvement in some of the demolition and construction work, where he stepped in to provide labor to make up for shortfalls in funding. 

In the midst of this transition, Peterson led a departmentwide strategic planning effort to plot the course for the coming years and set expectations for the new mode of operation. In years 2019-2021, Peterson represented the fire department on the core planning team for the addition/remodel of the Public Safety Building, a project that is expected to break ground in 2022.

City Manager Ellen Hiniker, who nominated Peterson for the award, said, “In short course, nearly everything that was ripe for change in the fire department has been successfully implemented. As a result, response times to all calls has decreased by at least half.”

Added Hiniker, “Chief Peterson has worked patiently, consistently and tirelessly over the last four years demonstrating great leadership, knowledge and passion for the profession and dedication to public service. I was honored for the opportunity to nominate him for the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Fire Officer of the Year Award. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving.”

Peterson was recognized at the MSFCA Awards Banquet Oct. 22 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

 

— From press release

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