By Roz Rogoff
PricelessUploaded: Jan 18, 2013
I didn't know much about San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District (SRVFPD) Fire Chief, Richard Price, before last year. I may have seen his name or read a press release from the Fire District, but he was just another guy in a uniform as far as I knew.
I got to know him better when he was appointed to the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Successor Agency Oversight Board. This Board is made up of representatives from the Taxing Agencies to share whatever is left from the dissolved Redevelopment Agencies after meeting the Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS) approved by the State Finance Department.
Chief Price represented the Fire District on the San Ramon Oversight Board and was elected Board Chairman. He was also on the Danville Oversight Board and I think one other in the County. He put in a lot of extra time on these different Boards and Committees.
I attended the first meeting of the San Ramon Oversight Board to request a legal opinion on whether the Mudd's property could be retained by the City as part of Crow Canyon Gardens Park under Section 34181 of the Health and Safety Code. I was hoping that would be a way to keep the building from being torn down.
After I asked about getting a legal advice, Chief Price thanked me. He thanked me! I was genuinely surprised.
Later I found out that he wasn't even being paid to be Fire Chief last year. Even though his official retirement started this year, he took his pension last year and continued to serve as Fire Chief during 2012 for $1 a month.
Some cynics might say, "Why not, since he was already getting a pension for more than his previous year's salary," But why should he, since he would get the pension anyway. Why continue in the job for another year for what amounted to no pay?
That's what Richard Price is about. It's not about money. He loves being a firefighter and started as a volunteer at 17. He joined the San Mateo County Fire Department in December of 1979. I asked him what the salary and benefits were for new firefighters back then.
"I don't remember what the salary and benefits were at that time. I can tell you that neither had anything to do with my decision to become a firefighter. I was solely attracted to the work and responsibilities. The pay and benefits did grow over my career but they were always secondary to my love for the job and my desire to serve the community."
Again for those who object to firefighter salaries and benefits today, which are now being restructured for new hires because of excesses that built up over the years, those like Price who started 30 years ago didn't do it for the money, because it wasn't there back then, and it isn't there as much anymore now.
I asked Chief Price about a comment posted on the Danville Express by a Concerned Danville business owner:
"I have spoken with several members of the rank-n-file members of SRVFPD and they are disgusted with the administration of the district. Morale is at an all-time low."
Chief Price replied:
"The District has been in concession bargaining for nearly two years with its labor group. Protracted contract negotiations, especially when you are proposing to reduce benefits, are never good for morale. The Fire Chief has a challenging role leading the organization while at the same time being the Fire Chief for the community of 180,000. Sometimes what is best for the community is not what is best for the employees. It is easy to be popular with the rank and file. The challenge today is doing the right thing for the community and the taxpayers and still keeping morale high."
Price started with the SRVFPD in 2006 and was promoted to Fire Chief in 2008. This is from the Press Release sent out by Kimberly French on July 25, 2008:
"(Chief Price) holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from California State University at Hayward and is a recent graduate of Harvard University's, Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. Price is a certified Chief Fire Officer (CFO) and is currently attending the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy in Maryland."
I asked if his graduate education was paid for by the San Mateo County Fire Department.
"No, I personally paid for all my degrees. The Kennedy school was a three-week summer executive program."
After Richard Price was promoted to Fire Chief he set about to have the SRVFPD accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). In 2010 the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District became the first agency in Contra Costa County and only the sixth fire department in the State of California to achieve international accreditation.
I asked Chief Price if it was his intention when he became Chief to seek accreditation.
"Yes, I had always planned to pursue accreditation as the chief. It was in the five-year strategic plan that began in 2008 that I helped draft as the assistant chief. I wanted to become the fire chief for many reasons but they were all centered around preserving and improving on the quality of fire and ems services provided by the district. Being the fire chief in your home town is quite a privilege and it keeps your responsibilities front and center on a daily basis."
Price mentions the five year Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan, Standards of Cover, Operating Budget, and Self-Assessment Manual are all available for download from the Fire District's
Key Documents web page.
Almost two years ago Chief Price came up with an iPhone App to summon CPR help for heart attack victims. I asked Chief Price about his interest in technology in redesigning the Fire District website and creating the iPhone App for victims of heart attacks.
"I have always had a love of technology. If I didn't become a firefighter I'm sure I would have a high tech career. It has been a hobby and second love for many, many years. I'm very excited to be able combine fire/ems and tech with the new PulsePoint Foundation. Best of both worlds for me. I'm proud of what I have accomplished in the District but the foundation now gives me the platform to make a much larger impact on society. Nearly 1,000 people a day die from cardiac arrest and I intend on trying to lower that number significantly."
Now that Price is retired from heading up the SRVFPD, he's taken over as President of PulsePoint Foundation, also for no pay. Take a look at the high-powered Board of Directors and Advisors he recruited. This guy could have chosen a tech career and made big bucks like them, but became a firefighter to save lives instead.
"Our primary goal is to extend the reach of the app to many more communities. We are also rewriting the app to add additional reliability functionality as we gain real world experience. The app has been activated for more than 600 cardiac emergencies and is downloaded by 100 new citizen rescuers every day."