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I am aware many of our 1100+ valued members have experienced the wrath of COVID-19. I am also mindful that even more of you have had to quarantine for many days. We have remembered all of you in our prayers and thankfully, we have not experienced tragedy to our line folks. However, we have lost one of our retired family members to this ruthless virus. SCFD Retired Paramedic Chuck Chase passed away last month due to COVID-19. May he rest in peace.

Please continue to do everything possible to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. The science provides facts that masks, hand washing, social distancing, and avoiding crowds save lives. The science also includes data that the vaccine works and while it does not yet provide the length of efficacy, the data will soon emerge leading to a better understanding. The vaccine is a personal decision and data has not shown long term effects.

I have chosen to receive the vaccine and lead by example. I look at the vaccine like this; Science and data shows that seatbelts save lives, so I wear my seatbelt as a precaution that one day I may get in an accident and it is there to protect me. There are people that say they will not wear a seatbelt because there is a chance that if they get into an accident and somehow end up underwater, the seatbelt will trap them. I ask you, how many times in your career when responding to an accident has the seatbelt saved a life versus been the cause of a loss of life. There is scientific data that support seatbelts save lives, much like the scientific data and facts that the vaccine will protect you. Whatever your decision is, my hope is that you and you families remain healthy and safe. 

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BYLAWS – Your District Vice Presidents (DVP's) recently received the posting for the proposed bylaw changes submitted at the January 18, 2021 Membership meeting.  The proposals have been sent out by the DVP'S and posted on the union boards. A copy will also be attached to the Straight Streams. (See Addendum #1). To vote on these bylaw changes, please attend the General Membership meeting at 1:00 April 12, 2021. Please look for the posting notice, and your DVP will receive a posting with the zoom information soon. We look forward to your attendance!

LOCAL 2546 SCHOLARSHIPS - Local 2546 Scholarship program has been reviewed and modified after members and DVPs expressed the need to update the scholarship policy. Several individuals suggested we make the Locals' Scholarship program more user-friendly and change it to capture more applicants. We established a review committee of your DVP's to find ways to improve the interest and simplify the process. This committee presented the recommended changes at the October Executive Board meeting, and the board requested the policy be further adjusted, offering proposed modifications. A newly modified proposal was presented at the January 2021 Executive Board meeting and unanimously approved.

In summary, the modifications directed funds toward educational opportunities to advance our Local's entire membership.  Please see the new scholarship policy in its entirety. (Attached as Addendum #2) Applications will be available online at the Local's website by mid-February, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Local's Secretary, Gerardo Rogazy.

FPF ALTERNATES – Over the last few years, units within Local 2546 have felt under-represented at the Florida Professional Firefighters (FPF) annual convention. The Locals' DVP's agreed to design a fairer process for choosing alternates to the FPF yearly convention that complied with our Bylaws and maintained ethical considerations.  A policy designed for choosing your FPF alternates and recommended  voting process was adopted during the Dec, 2020 Executive Board meeting. This newly approved process will assure that the delegates that attend the FPF Board meeting shall come from the membership as a whole. (Attached as an Addendum #3)

CONTRACT RATIFICATION – After lengthy discussions with legal counsel, the local should adopt a standard policy for contract ratifications that comply with the PERC requirements and offer greater security for our members.  Again, a committee made up of the Executive Board was established to review contract voting, ensure compliance in transparency, and establish a universal ratification requirement for all units of local 2546.  The policy was adopted at the January 2021 executive board meeting and is available in this version of the Straight Streams (Attached as Addendum #4)

JOEL BAKER – The Assistant to the Office of President is currently working with Punta Gorda and West Manatee Fire Departments. He was assigned last month to assist DVP Felico to prepare for contract negotiations. Joel will act as lead contract negotiator taking direction from DVP Bowen for West Manatees 2021 to 2024 CBA to ensure that unit's success. Joel has also served on my behalf with various DVP's on discipline and fact-finding. I am happy to report many of the issues worked on ended with fair rulings.

Joel is currently enrolled in Paramedic school this year and is now juggling the Local's needs with Paramedic school. Those of you who have been in Paramedic school who know how hard he has to balance the workload can appreciate his work ethic.  Thank you for your dedication to helping in your spare time. 

JASON BERZOWSKI – Jason is assigned with the added responsibility of coordinating our political initiatives. He is intimately involved with all of the district's elections and works at the discretion of the DVP's to ensure the coordination of interviews and political action issues for each of the departments we represent. While Jason is a tool used by your DVP to build communication skills, your DVP has the responsibility to build relationships with your Commissioners, Council members, and Fire Chief. Please feel free to discuss these relationships with your DVP. They are responsible for keeping the channels of communications open to keep your commission informed of your Department's current affairs.  

Jason was the key in last year's successful elections. He scheduled, coordinated, and spoke with the candidates from various districts, assuring a successful election season. His assistance led to our Local meeting 90% of our goals. Jason worked with the IAFF and put together the Facebook ads, one in Manatee and the other promoting the Charlotte County 1¢ Sales Tax initiative for the second time.

Jason is currently involved in the negotiations for his department, Longboat Key. It is important to note Jason has been a strong Union leader, and he should hold a more significant position of responsibility very soon. It is my hope he will accept the title of full-time Business Agent in 2021.

752 COMMERCE DR STE 1&2– Permits are approved, and demolition of the inner walls has begun, and we are full steam ahead. This project has been in the works on paper for many years, and it was D.J. Seiler who encouraged the Principals to expand over 12 years ago. I'm glad you and Merv convinced me!

Under President Kennells' direction, we made significant investments, real estate deals, acquired rental income, and saved enough money to accomplish this monumental task. All at no additional cost to the membership! Many kudos to Emeritus President M. Kennell and Emeritus Secretary D. J. Seiler for their insightful vision to expand. I will forever remember this team, and it was so much easier then. All I had to do was hoard the money…

Our new capabilities will offer a Union Hall big enough to support a meeting of 100+ members while providing office and conference space to support the Board’s needs. We expect completion by the end of summer or the beginning of fall 2021. (See Addendum #5 for building layout)


FLORIDA PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS - I am happy to report that the Florida Professional Firefighters  Annual convention went off virtually without a hitch. Your Representatives attended this annual convention via zoom and some attendees participated in virtual educational classes. Kudos to the FPF management and staff as this is the first virtual event for this organization. Because the Capital remains closed to political activity, The Florida Professional Firefighters must work outside the normal process. However, the FPF is working to educate Legislators on frontline worker's COVID concerns. The idea thus far is to ensure employees who have contacted COVID will be covered under the law.  As many of you know, this year will find the State's budget in a massive shortfall in part to COVID- 19. This year it will be imperative to make PAC contributions to candidates when asked by your DVP. We must assure our State  Legislators know we support them, as we will need their support in protecting our interests at the State level. Please, be sure to write your DVP a check for candidates when requested.

The Florida Professional Firefighters did not increase dues this year. That amounts to a zero pass-thru increase for the last seven years.

UNION CONTRACTS - What is the Local's workload in terms of contracts for Local 2546? Who is heading to negotiations, who is finishing up negotiations, and who is currently in talks?

  • Unit Contracts completed in 2020: Southern Manatee, Venice Fire, Englewood Fire, and North River Fire.

  • Unit Contracts in final: Cedar Hammock

  • Unit Contracts in 2021: Long Boat Key, Sarasota County, Charlotte County, West Manatee, Punta Gorda, and North Port.

To finish up on a high note

CHARITABLE ORG - Suncoast Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Charitable Organization (501c3) has donated over $60,000.00 this year (2021). Charitable Funds are received from direct solicitations, donations, and the Florida Firefighter Tag monies. Below, you will see the 501C3 organizations we contributed to this year.  (charitable web page -

  • Turning Point - It’s our Turn - IAFF Disaster Relief - Sozo Missions - Catholic Charities - Mayors Feed the Hungry - Salvation Army - Boys and Girls Club - United Way - Meals on Wheels - All Faiths Food Bank - Feeding Little Tummies - Manasota Solve - William Gains Jr. Veterans Memorial - Bradenton Blue Foundation - Humane Society of Manatee - Keep Manatee Beautiful 

Your commitment to our communities humbles me each day. Thank you for your loyal membership, friendship, and dedication to this Local and myself. May God bless you and your family and keep all frontline workers safe.



President Vets

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Sisters and Brothers,

I hope that when you read this, life finds you and your families well. The holiday season is upon us, and a new year is around the corner. When reflecting on this tumultuous year, it is hard to think of what there is to feel happy or thankful for. The global pandemic rages on, and there is still so much divisiveness amongst our nation. Our Union is a microcosm of society, so we also suffer some of the same woes that the country faces.

As firefighters and paramedics, we are natural problem solvers. We make life or death situations under pressure; this is why I know that we will all come together and rise to meet whatever challenges. I want to ask all of us to let go of the things that anger us and refocus our energies on what we can do to make things better and work back to normalcy. We've lost our own to this disease nationally and had many of our members in this Local get infected (thankfully, they have recovered).  I urge you to please stay safe and follow your respected department's guidelines. We are going through trying times, and I want to thank all of you for your current and continued efforts. I am truly humbled and proud to be able to serve our communities beside you.


With that, I would like to shift into some positive things accomplished this year.

  • Our Local still managed to be a top MDA supporter in the nation, raising over $100k this year. Thank you to all that participated in this year's boot drive!

  • We also raised $975 for Special Olympics through our Polar Plunge team efforts.

  • We were able to secure Collective Bargaining Agreements for our Venice, North River, Englewood, and West Manatee units.

  • LifeScan® was implemented in the Sarasota County unit.

This year we've also had quite a few birth announcements. I want to congratulate all my fellow parents. I know what you're thinking, but not all babies were quarantine babies. (LOL) 😉!

There have been promotions Local wide, and I would like to congratulate you all and wish you the best in your new roles. There's always more to learn; please keep your tools sharp as you lead your fellow Sisters and Brothers.

Lastly, I would like to recognize what I am thankful for this year.

  • First and foremost, my family. God blessed us with our daughter this year, and I want to thank my wife for bringing her into this world.

  • Thank you again for electing me to this role. I hope I've been meeting the challenge up to the standard needed thus far. (Thanks for your patience as I learn all the aspects of the job)

  • Thankful for our IAFF and all of our members. We are strong because of this Union!

  • Thankful for all of our Local's leadership; they do more for us than you'll ever get to see or know.

Thank you for reading; I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season along with a better new year!

Always your Brother,


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Secretary Rogazy receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Doing his part to keep everyone safe.  
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Brothers and Sister,

Happy New Year!  Thankfully it is beginning to cool down outside a bit, although it seems like things around the Local never do.

I have been part of Cedar Hammock’s and Charlotte County’s negotiation team.  DVP Paul Reda and DVP Brendan Betancourt have been doing a great job with these two contracts.

In Sarasota, I continue to attend the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and Training Committee meetings and continue to serve as a Trustee for the Sarasota County Fire Department Health Trust.

October 1st was the start of Suncoast Professional Firefighters and Paramedics, Inc., Local 2546’s fiscal year, so the upcoming budget has taken up a lot of my time.  A draft of the budget was presented and discussed at the September E-board meetings, and the finalized budget was presented and discussed at the Quarterly Membership Meeting in October. 

The dues increased this year for two reasons; the first reason was the IAFF per capita tax increased $0.365 for each active member monthly…effective February 1, 2021.  This increase is pursuant to the 2021 Convention Resolutions 1, 17, 29, 33, and 35.  The remaining dues increase came from an increase in Local operating dues based on an annual calculation per our By-Laws. The formula seeks to maintain a singular rate for all members that is based on a Local wide average. The dues are calculated yearly based on 1% of the average “normalized,” salary of all Units. Since some of our units finalized new contracts this year with salary increases, the average salaries of the units increased triggering an increase to the Local’s operating dues of $0.19 bi-weekly.  Total dues increase Bi-Weekly was $0.36.

The new rate is :  

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Thank you, and I appreciate the opportunity to serve you all!

Johnny Rigney, Jr.

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Sisters and Brothers,

I hope you are all had a great holiday season.  With many things to be Thankful for.  Local 2546 had a successful political season.  80% of our endorsed candidates won their elections.  This puts us in a good position with the upcoming State Legislation session, and hopefully for those departments getting ready for contract negotiations next year.  But the work isn’t done.  As mentioned the Legislation session will be starting early after the New Year.  We’ve been hearing from our friends in the Legislature that we may be looking at anywhere between a three and eight billion dollar budget shortfall due to Covid-19.

Your Local and our elected leaders in the FPF will be working hard this session to make sure our voice is heard.  And that we’ve been out on the frontlines of this pandemic.  We are not going to allow special interest groups to use this pandemic to push their agendas that hurt Firefighters.  Including any draconian changes or cuts to our earned benefits. This is why this position and politics within our Local are so important.  Having friends in the elected body allows us to be a voice for you.  And we intend on doing that.

Also going forward we had an unexpected resignation on the North Port City Commission.  A special election for that position has been announced for March 9th.  We will be interviewing candidates, possibly making an endorsement, and if so… we’ll be out working for our candidate.  Please watch for calls for help with this race.  It’s an important seat for our Brothers and Sisters in North Port. 

We are very fortunate to have not only a FPF DVP that is one of our ex-Presidents, the FPF Vice President is also from our Local. I want to congratulate Rocco on his reelection to office.  His leadership in Tallahassee and throughout the State has been incredible.  We have many resources at our disposal, and we will use whatever we need to ensure your earned benefits are protected. 


Please stay well and safe out there.  Have a great holiday season.



Jason Berzowski

Political Liaison Officer

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New Members

Welcome to Local 2546

When you see these members take a moment and welcome them into the Org. 
Ethan Viera - Cedar Hammock Fire
Jeffrey Lunsford - City of Venice Fire
Nicholas Miller - City of Venice Fire
Nicholas Jusino - North Port Fire Rescue
Joseph Tompio - North Port Fire Rescue
Joseph McCord - North Port Fire Rescue
Kevin Lockhart - North Port Fire Rescue
Casey Fishbach - West Manatee Fire
Blake Sullivan - Cedar Hammock Fire
Trent Cholley - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Romeo Carrano - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Tyler Bell - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Eric Jimenez - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Vincent Maugeri - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Bo Gurskis - City of Bradenton Fire
Ryan Tagland - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Robert Garrick - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Todd Waller - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Joseph Rice - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Michael Diaz - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Devin Rogers - City of Venice Fire 
Rebecca Durham - City of Venice Fire
Bithja Lafaille - City of Venice Fire
William Clarke - City of Venice Fire
Danelys Banegas - City of Venice Fire
Patrick Staye - City of Venice Fire
Daniel Kimberlin - City of Venice Fire
Michael Davila - North River Fire
Christopher McKinniss - North River Fire
John Mueller - North River Fire

Recently Retired

Congratulations on Your Retirement 

James Ryan IV - Charlotte County Fire & EMS

Don Morley - Charlotte County Fire & EMS

James Ryan - Charlotte County Fire & EMS

David Ezell - City of Bradenton Fire

William Green - Sarasota County Fire Dept.

Robin Brightbill - Sarasota County Fire Dept.

Dave Eggleston - North Port Fire Rescue

Darryl Williams - Sarasota County Fire Dept.

Tanya DeRosa - North Port Fire Rescue

Wanda Pavone - Charlotte County Fire & EMS

Kenneth Treffinger - Sarasota County Fire Dept.

John Jackson - Sarasota County Fire Dept.

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We are finally coming to the end of 2020.  It’s been a long and exhausting year for all of us but hopefully 2021 will bring better days.  I personally want to thank all of you for stepping up and working through all the changes and unexpected difficulties this year has presented us.  We are truly an exceptional Department and that starts with you, the SCFD employees. 


We will be going back to the table in 2021 and the process will start in May.  Optimistically in the beginning of next year, we hope to have General Membership meetings like in the past to talk about negotiations.  As always, we will be sending out a survey prior to negotiations to make up your priority list.  My opinion, this negotiation should be about language and pay, but the members will ultimately decide that. 


I have been getting questions about the new vaccine for COVID 19 and if we are required to take it.  At this time, the County has said this will not be a mandatory vaccine.  The IAFF and FPF are backing the vaccine but they also acknowledge that since the vaccine has only an emergency use authorization, that we should not be forced to take something you do not feel comfortable taking.  That might change once the FDA gives a full approval due to language that currently exists in FL. ST. 112.181(3), which gives the employer the option to require an employee to undergo immunization or prophylaxis.  I will keep you up to date on the Union’s website if anything changes. 


I’ll keep this short and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Remember, if you have any questions feel free to post them on the Union’s website.

Take care, Matt.

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On scene at a structure fire

On scene at a structure fire 

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 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 While 2020 draws down to a close; there is a lot to consider in what we went through in the last year.


 With the City's direction on taking over ALS, hiring 24 more personnel, the training needed for that and negotiating a contract not to mention other business   would be a busy year for any department our size. 


 All of that coupled with a global pandemic has made 2020 a year to remember.


 As we move into 2021 I am hopeful that many adjustments to how we are operating will bring a better view to how we will move forward. I am hopeful this   will help with easing the uncertainties that have been placed in our way by the pandemic and the way of life for us all.


 Here is hoping 2021 will be better place in time for us all.


 Jeff Cripe


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Station 1 nearing completion
Venice Fire Rescue's Ambulance Debut
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Sisters and Brothers,

News from Longboat Key is good right now.  We had a successive Golf Tournament.  Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the Longboat Key Firefighters Association was able to raise over ten thousand dollars.  They use this money for a wide variety of charitable causes.  The Association has been an integral part in our community outreach programs.  And has helped to solidify the relationship the LBK Firefighters have with the citizens of the community we serve.  I can’t say enough about the Board of the Association, and all my fellow LBK members who volunteer their own time to help with these great causes.

LBK is getting ready for contract negotiations next year.  My team and I will be meeting to discuss our plans.  And taking input from the members we proudly represent.  We know with Covid-19 we have budgetary challenges ahead.  But I have a good team and believe we will be successful. 

We have hired a new Assistant Chief.  With the retirement of Deputy Chief Chris Krajic.  And some restructuring of the Command Staff.  LBK has hired John Curran.  John was a Captain with the St. Pete Fire Department.  He starts shortly after the New Year.  We look forward to working with him when he comes on shift. 

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Jason Berzowski

DVP Longboat key

Lastly, the Department has purchased and put in service a new Sutphen Quint.  The is part of the Town’s initiative to upgrade all of our frontline units.  We look forward to breaking in the new truck.  To all, please stay safe and well out on the front lines.  Have a blessed Holiday season.

LBKFD's new Sutphen Quint
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Brothers and Sisters, 

These have been trying times for us all, both personally and on the front lines. With the pandemic, political tensions, health of personnel and their families, and day to day stressors. But through it all, we have remained a cohesive unit, both members and management at EFD.

We have had multiple members out due to COVID,  plus the scheduling difficulties with a paid Paramedic schooling endeavor, our OT budget has been stressed. But we continue to work through this together. 

We ratified our latest contract with a 100 percent approval vote by both bargaining unit members and by the Board of Commissioners. We are getting ready for negotiations again as this past contract is a one year contract. We changed a lot of articles in the last contract,  and will only have 2 articles to discuss in the next one. The Paramedic program will be a major article added to the upcoming contract,  so I may be reaching out to my fellow Brother's and Sisters for direction on this.

We  hired a new Probationary FF/Paramedic in December.  Welcome to your new family David Gentry! I'm confident David will assist us moving forward, along with Chief Easton and Shane Williams,  with the progression of our  Paramedic program. We will also be promoting 3 new Lieutenants in February. Good luck to all the FFs looking to take the next steps in leadership. 

These will continue to be trying times, as we all know, but we will stay strong and well through it all! We have no choice. Its what we all signed up for. 

I pray that everyone reading this has a great holiday season and the happiest of a New Year!

God knows we can't wait for the calendar to flip this time around!

In Brotherhood,

Englewood DVP

Roman Grabowski 

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8th Annual Awards Ceremony
DVP Grabowski presenting Spencer Heldenbrand the IAFF 2546 award
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Brothers and Sisters,

We have had great things occur over the last few months. As a Local, we supported the 1% Sales Tax initiative and utilized internet advertising using funds from our PAC fund to help get the word out in a COVID-19 landscape. This effort led to one of the best approval ratings in the sales tax initiative's history since its inception. Charlotte Co. members stood firm with candidates from throughout the Local, assisting our Brothers and Sisters of other units during this unprecedented election season.


We are now in full swing of our negotiation preparations and are utilizing membership input to help drive the content of our next Collective Bargaining Agreement. We are in the midst of a Fire Chief hiring/transition, and we are all optimistic about what the future holds for our Department. I want to thank each one of you for your support and input as we continue on the path of helping sculpt the direction of our Unit.


Stay healthy, stay strong, and remain unified.

Brendan Betancourt 

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DVP Betancourt Giving the Invocation at the William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park  ribbon-cutting Ceremony Sept. 22, 2020  

Wendy "Pinky" Norman Day

November 24, 2020
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"Fill the Truck" event

Hello Brothers and Sisters of 2546,


As you read this, the Holidays will have pretty much come and gone. I hope this finds you and your families well. As far as North Port, we have been trucking along as business as usual. As we all have been dealing with COVID, North Port has been hanging in there. We have had our members come down with COVID, and had one member take a little longer to recover but he is back to work at full capacity. For the most part, it has been basic body aches and weakness for a couple days. Our Department is still continuing to do a great job as well as the City with supporting those who come down with the virus. I’m thinking, were going to be just fine.


Other than that, we are still on track for our new Station 86/ 26 and it’s a monster station that will be an architectural gem right on 41 in Wellen Park. It will house 2 Rescues, 1 Engine, 1 Ladder, 1 North Port Battalion and a NPPD substation.


This year was also the first year for our FPF Convention that went virtual……YAY COVID!! Even though it was not how we wanted to do it, it was the right thing to do. Our FPF President did an amazing job with all the hurdles he had to overcome during the process, so a huge shout out to him…Nice work sir!


That’s it for me, I’ll keep it short. Hope you all had a great holiday season!! Enjoy your families and remember that is what the Holidays are truly about!!




Best wishes,


Jentzen Barton


North Port members showing their support

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"Fill the Truck" event

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Christmas with Santa at the Haven

Hello All

Hope everyone is happy and healthy and enjoyed the holidays. There isn't much to report since most everything is still on hold but there is one bright spot. Little Grace Wright was born back on August, 13th. Congratulations to Aaron and his family on their new addition.

As most of us look forward to the New Year and hopefully a bit more normalcy, consider joining me in welcoming our new Mayor and Council members as they're sworn in on Tuesday, January 5th at 9am in the Council Chambers at City Hall. This brief ceremony provides an opportunity to meet, congratulate and show your support of the newcomers. With this new blood comes new ideas and what certainly must be a better and brighter future.

Thanks to all of you for letting me serve. Its an honor.

Stay safe, Doug.

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Christmas with Santa at Shelby Preschool

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Brothers and Sisters,

I would first like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you all stay safe and enjoy your time spent with family.

I’m sure many of you are looking forward to leaving 2020 behind as am I. But there’s still a lot we can appreciate. We have remained fairly healthy and our members who have contracted COVID have made full recoveries. Tyler Canfield has done a phenomenal job in his first year as Training Chief and the impact he’s made has not gone unnoticed. Our Honor Guard is well underway and the team has all been fitted for uniforms. I’d like to thank Alex Davenport for forming and leading this team.

Our team has already begun preparations for our 2021 contract negotiations and we look forward to meeting with the membership. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

As always stay safe,


Danny Felico


Honor Guard members Josh Roebuck and Rhett Anderson

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Kaitlin McCausland - Honor Guard member

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Greetings and Happy Holiday’s from Southern Manatee.

I hope this letter finds everyone and their families healthy and safe. Here’s some updates from our Department:

This year’s Adopt – a – Family event was a huge success. We partnered with the charity organization, The Magic of Mittens, which is run by a fantastic woman, Beth Grogan. SMFR employees were able to make a positive difference this Christmas for about 20 children in our community.

The end of this year will also be the end of the greatest change to happen at Southern Manatee. Sadly, Chief Gorski is stepping down as our Fire Chief. I cannot honestly express in this article how much he has meant to our department. He brought knowledge, wisdom, kindness and most of all, leadership. Something Southern Manatee did NOT have, from any previous administration that I have been a part of. Deputy Chief Bounds will be taking over at the start of the new year. I have had conversations with DC Bounds, and he has vowed to keep SMFR on the path Chief Gorski started. So, I would like to take this time, from all of us in the Southern Manatee family and say “Thank you” to Chief Gorski, you will be missed.


Now there is a chance Chief Gorski hangs around for a few months, as an ALS consultant, but he will be under the direction of the new Fire Chief. His only responsibility, if this happens, will be keeping our ALS program running and compliant with state requirements. Best wishes to Chief Gorski and let it be known that his legacy will keep Southern Manatee on the right path.




Derek Foss

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SMFR's donation to Sozo's Mission

Chief Gorski...A True Leader
leading from the front and setting a good example
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You Will be Missed
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Brothers and Sisters,


I hope everyone had a great holiday season.  All is going well at North River, we have added three firefighters to our ranks, I would like to welcome Firefighter John Mueller back to the North River family and welcome Firefighters Michael Davila and Chris McKinnis to North River.  All three are joining the Local. 


The North River Firefighter Organization Christmas Party was held at Three Oaks where a good time was had by all that attended.  I would like to thank the members of the organization that worked so diligently to make the event a success.


The North River ALS program is moving forward.  COVID has slowed the process down a bit but we are working through it.  Reassignments of Paramedics to Station 5 are planned for January. 






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Training Exercises
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Greetings Brothers and Sisters, 


  The year is quickly coming to a close, and with every end there is a new beginning.


It's usually pretty quiet at the West Manatee Unit but over the last several months we have had some new developments. Since the last issue of Straight Streams,  West Manatee has welcomed a new Fire Commissioner;  Mr. Robbie Bennett. Commissioner Bennett won his election over two other well qualified candidates both with extensive backgrounds in the Fire Service.


Commissioner Bennett is replacing former Commissioner Randy Cooper who served Seat Five with distinction for twelve years. Commissioner Randy Cooper, we Thank You and wish you well in your future endeavors.


Commission Chair Larry Jennis, who ran unopposed, will retain Seat One for four more years. Please join me in congratulating and thanking these fine gentlemen for their public service to the District. Firefighter/Charge Paramedic Frank Agresta has been named as Steward for the West Manatee Bargaining Unit. Frank is an all around good guy and I know that he will serve the Membership well.

Paramedic Frank Agresta has been named as Steward for the West Manatee Bargaining Unit. Frank is an all around good guy and I know that he will serve the Membership well.

 Renovation work at WMFR Station-3 is finally completed. The much needed station update/remodel was started just before the COVID came to town. WMFR's Administration, the station crews and the construction contractor all worked together to maintain station integrity and remain operational.


WMFR has had some personnel with Line of Duty (or potential LOD) exposures. For a small Department, this can present a significant challenge especially during this time of year.  We all need to remember to follow CDC and FPF guidelines  through this unprecedented time to make sure that we all make it home safely and together.



Buddy Bowen


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Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

2020 has been a challenging year without question. Between Covid-19, Civil unrest and Politic turmoil we all have had our hands full. Yet here we are. We adapted and rose to the challenges. The IAFF, Management and all the members have survived together. More changes will be necessary and I am sure we will be ready. I have great hopes for the future. Remind everyone to just remain flexible and open minded during this fluent time.

With the up and coming year also comes with a fairly new Commissioner  Board. During the November elections, we had 3 seats come up for election. John Stevens won his re-election race and we are proud to have him for four more years. Marnie Matrese ran unopposed and comes with eagerness to learn the position. I feel she will be fair and make decisions best for the district. Andy Reasoner  ran against Rich McGinley. It was a close race but at the end of the day, Andy Reasoner came out on top. It took a lot of time and energy during the campaign and I would like to thank everyone that dedicated their efforts.

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Officer of the Year - Captain Matt Rose

 December 05,2020, CHFR had their Appreciation dinner. There, the awards for Fire fighter and Officer of the year were announced. Well-deserved for their dedicated work, Captain Matt Rose and Fire Fighter John Eibe were awarded the honors. Recognition was give as well to Captain Justin Rudrud, Lt. Brad Jones, FF James Taylor and FF Randall Fowler.

Wrapping up CBA Negotiations is a high priority. We have agreed on almost all articles. With a new year, we have an updated vision for a better product for the next generation. I have been working closely with management on new policies to roll out as soon as the CBA is approved. Tentatively we will meet with Management on the final article in January, approval from Board and a voting by the members in February.

I would like to Thank the Executive Board of Local 2546, CHFR Management and Members for the support and placing their trust in me. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays…..GOOD BYE 2020….Let’s Go 2021!!


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Firefighter of the Year- John Eibe

Lending a Helping Hand in Our Communities

Contributing Over $60,000.00 to Local Charities in 2020
(Click on images for more info on these great organizations)
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Catholic Charities
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All Faiths Food Bank- Sarasota County
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Sozo's Mission
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United Way of Charlotte County
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Mayors Feed the Hungry
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Salvation Army- Sarasota County
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F.E.L.T. (Feeding Empty Little Tummies)
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United Way of South Sarasota
Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte County.
Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte County
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Bradenton Blue Foundation
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Manatee County Humane Society
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Turning Points
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Salvation Army of Charlotte County
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Keep Manatee Beautiful
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Meals on Wheels of Charlotte County
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Meals on Wheels of Sarasota

In Memoriam

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Red and Gold IAFF Logo - SPFF - Black Ba
  Charles "Chuck" Chase
    Sarasota County Fire 
10/03/1948 - 11/05/2020
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  EEOC Says Employers Can Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine


On December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its guidance and said employers will generally not run afoul of employment laws by requiring employees to obtain vaccination. However, the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations may raise questions about the applicability of various equal employment opportunity laws, and employers should take caution before implementing a vaccination mandate.

Employment Laws to Navigate

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) protects employees who may have a medical condition or disability that prevents the employee from safely receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccination may be mandated if the employer determines that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of individuals in the workplace under a four-factor analysis: (1) the duration of the risk; (2) the nature and severity of the potential harm; (3) the likelihood that the potential harm will occur; (4) and the imminence of the potential harm. The EEOC stated that a direct threat determination must “include a determination that an unvaccinated individual will expose others to the virus at the worksite.”

Upon a direct threat determination, “the employer cannot exclude the employee from the workplace—or take any other action—unless there is no way to provide a reasonable accommodation (absent undue hardship) that would eliminate or reduce this risk so the unvaccinated employee does not pose a direct threat.” If no reasonable accommodation exists for an unvaccinated employee, the EEOC makes it clear that the employee cannot be automatically terminated: “If there is a direct threat that cannot be reduced to an acceptable level, the employer can exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace, but this does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker.”

Under the updated guidance, while the COVID-19 vaccination does not constitute an impermissible medical examination, “pre-screening vaccination questions may implicate the ADA’s provision on disability-related inquiries, which are inquiries likely to elicit information about a disability.” Thus, if an employer administers the vaccine on a mandatory basis, the employer “must show that such pre-screening questions it asks employees are ‘job-related and consistent with business necessity.’” To meet the job-related and consistent with business necessity standard, the employer must show that there is “a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee who does not answer the questions and, therefore, does not receive a vaccination, will pose a direct threat to the health or safety of her or himself or others.”

Lastly, employers are free to ask employees whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccine without running afoul of making a “disability-related” inquiry, but employers must take caution when asking follow-up questions (why an employee refused the vaccine would be subject to the ADA) or requires proof of vaccination (employees should be warned to not to provide any medical information as part of the proof in order to avoid implicating the ADA).

Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects employees who sincerely hold a religious belief, practice, or observance that would prevent the employee from receiving the vaccine. The updated EEOC guidance states that once an employer is on notice of such a religious belief, practice, or observance, then the employer must either (1) provide the employee with a reasonable accommodation or (2) if no reasonable accommodation is available (or the reasonable accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer), then the employer may exclude the employee from the workplace. Like the ADA, Title VII prohibits automatic termination of the employee, according to the EEOC (meaning the employee may be excluded from work but not automatically fired).

Title II

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of genetic information. The updated EEOC guidance states that mandatory vaccination does not implicate GINA, but that GINA rights may be implicated when the employer “requires pre-screening questions that ask about genetic information, the inquiries seeking genetic information, such as family members’ medical histories.”

        Collective Bargaining Agreement


Though the updated EEOC guidance does not address collective bargaining agreements, employers should be mindful of collective bargaining rights if their employees are unionized. Even if the employer has a right to mandate vaccination, there may still be a duty to bargain with the union.

For more information on mandatory vaccinations and the ADA, Title VII, and Title II, visit the EEOC’s website: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, last updated December 16, 2020,

We continue to closely monitor the situation and update this information to provide the latest workplace and legal developments related to Covid19. We expect your questions, and our answers will change as the situation develops. For answers to your specific questions and for the newest developments, please visit our website at  and contact us at Donnelly + Gross at 352-374-4001 or directly by email:

          Paul Donnelly                Laura Gross    

          Jung Yoon       

          Jim Brantley   

          Cole Barnett  


We are here to support you.

This publication is for general information only and intended for clients and friends of Donnelly + Gross.  It should not be relied upon as legal advice as the law related to each situation varies. Moreover, workplace law related to COVID-19 is dynamic and changing daily. The sharing of this information does not establish a client relationship.

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