Jeff Pomeranz, President
CPSE Board of Directors
Jeff Pomeranz, the new President of the CPSE Board of Directors, and the first city manager to hold that position, brings over three decades of professional experience and two decades of CPSE volunteer experience to the role. He is currently the City Manager for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he has been since 2010. Prior to that he held similar positions in West Des Moines, Iowa; Port Angeles, Washington and Del Rio, Texas. CPSE Corner sat down (virtually) with President Pomeranz to get his views on CPSE’s direction and future in the changing environment that everyone is working in these days.
“It was in West Des Moines that I first became aware of CPSE and the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) process when our fire department became accredited,” said Pomeranz. “It was shortly after that, in 2006, that I was asked to become a CFAI Commissioner. From there, I moved onto the Board in 2013.” His experience as city manager of accredited departments and as a CFAI Commissioner and Board member have provided him with a well-rounded exposure to the organization, the continuous quality improvement processes of accreditation and credentialing, and their value to a community.
“When I got to Cedar Rapids,” continued Pomeranz, “which is Iowa’s second largest city, our fire department was not accredited at the time and we started putting in that effort because I knew the benefits to the fire department and to the city. I’m a strong supporter for what fire fighters do every day, and I say this because in the cities I have served I’ve had a lot of interaction with the fire departments and I know the positive impact they have on their communities.” In 2019, when Cedar Rapids was hiring a new fire chief, it was imperative to Pomeranz that the selected candidate hold a Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation from the Commission on Professional Credentialing.
A frequent panelist at the CPSE Excellence Conference, Pomeranz is driven to have more city and county managers understand the benefits of accreditation and credentialing for their communities and internal operations.
Pomeranz has led Cedar Rapids through several natural disasters that have demonstrated the crucial role fire departments play in their communities. “Cedar Rapids had catastrophic floods in 2008 and 2016 and recently had a derecho strike the city, a windstorm with over 150 mile-per-hour winds that caused over $200 million in damage. One of the first places I went to was the fire department and I spent a week there, working with the team.” Pomeranz firmly understands and champions the all-hazards role of a contemporary fire department.
Pomeranz’s experience in fire department accreditation is translating into other departments within his city as well. “Because of the commitment we have to accreditation, I have seen other departments of the city following the example of the fire department. The Police Department is now accredited, Public Works is in the queue for accreditation, and Parks and Recreation is working on it as well. The Cedar Rapids Fire Department has been a role model, our community is proud of it, and other departments in the city are following their lead.”
Being the first city manager to serve as CPSE’s President, Pomeranz brings a unique perspective to the position. “I have learned a tremendous amount from those coming before me,” observed Pomeranz, “and we have a Board that is highly committed to the fire service, accreditation and credentialing, and moving forward in a very positive way. I’ve seen a real commitment to innovation and a strong desire to reach out to fire departments, whether they are volunteer or career, to get them to see the benefits of participating in our CPSE programs.”
Innovation and COVID-19
A part of this innovation has been driven by the changes that have occurred over the past year where COVID-19 has upended fire departments and organizations such as CPSE. Examples include how CPSE pivoted to start virtually delivering education, technical advising, and accreditation services and continuing to provide credentialing services. This certainly hasn’t been without its challenges, as it would be to any organization, but with CPSE’s focus on continuous improvement it was an opportunity to employ the strategies it espouses.
“We are going to get back to business as usual,” said Pomeranz, “but it is going to take time. We are committed to getting the job done, but in a different way. We have absolutely acknowledged and embraced technology to allow us to continue to improve and provide critical services.”
And COVID-19 has just served to reinforce the respect that Pomeranz has for fire departments. “These departments put the safety of themselves in jeopardy for the benefit of others. It just drives me to be even more supportive of them.”
“Our organization is based on continuous improvement and our daily work involves our improvement in services and looking to the future,” said Pomeranz. “An example of this is the White Paper (21st Century Fire and Emergency Services) that we recently completed in partnership with ICMA (International City/County Management Association). Its purpose is to look to the future with broad-based involvement and make sure the fire service continues to change and grow.” CPSE benefits from having representation from city/county management, fire service management, labor, and related organizations on its Commissions and Board.
The CPSE Board is currently working on a new strategic plan. While there has been significant growth in the CPSE community of departments and officers, the Board wishes to have a greater impact in the coming years. The previous plan was completed in 2016 and covered five years, but with all of the changes and challenges happening as a result of COVD-19, the planning horizon for the new strategic plan has been shortened to two years.
“The Board met virtually with an external facilitator and took a strong look at our mission and vision for the future and developed a number of areas for emphasis. The whole focus was on how do we communicate better and reach out and get more communities and individuals involved in CPSE programming and efforts.”
In 2021, CPSE will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and this new strategic plan will set the course for the organization for the next quarter century.
Board of Directors
Along with this, Pomeranz said the Board of Directors, with some upcoming vacancies, is looking towards the Board makeup and making sure that every fire department and officer that has an interest in accreditation and credentialing has an opportunity to serve. “We talked about the Board wanting to be very open to those that we have engaged with and that are part of our efforts,” added Pomeranz. “We are looking towards broader and more inclusive participation and making sure we are responsive to CPSE partners.”
“The entire Board is ready to move forward, and I am very excited that Mary Cameli, CFO (Chief, Mesa Fire and Medical Department, Arizona) is our vice-president, and Tom Harmer (Town Manager, Longboat Key, Florida) is our treasurer and secretary. The entire Board is a great team, committed, experienced, and knowledgeable about what fire departments do and how they serve our communities. We want to do the best we can to engage with the fire community across the country and help them in how they serve their communities.”