Historic City News listened as Edward F. Houston II, president of the St. Johns County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics union, addressed the County Commission with a new conciliatory voice — at one point apologizing for past adversarial tensions between the union and Board.
In a published guest column, Houston said, “When Local 3865 elected me president last month they gave me a clear mandate: repair the union’s relationship with county leaders so we can provide the best possible fire and emergency medical service to the residents of St. Johns County.”
Houston told the Board that we have the finest quality of emergency services and that he intends to keep it that way. Houston said that he was one of the founding officers and president of the firefighter’s union when the County adopted a full-time, fully certified fire department.
“It was unfortunate,” Houston said, lamenting the impasse of past union leadership. “Now, we understand,” he continued.
“Wage reductions, no matter how deep, will not be enough to resolve the dire financial problems facing Fire Rescue,” Houston said. “That is why I will also urge the County Commission to approve the modest millage increase needed to sustain Fire Rescue service at current levels.”
“All of us want to continue the best service possible,” Houston told the Board. “I am proud to represent more than 200 professionals who have dedicated their lives to serving the county’s citizens in their time of greatest need.”
“A series of sometimes-petty disagreements helped foster an atmosphere of animosity that was not in the best interest of our members — and the county,” Houston said. “From this point forward, I want to avoid all the nastiness.”
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph