At the passing of fellow Kiwanis member Bob Shea, I was asked to serve out his term as a fire commissioner. I can recall hearing others call him "The Commish." Soon after that, I learned what that meant and how I became part of the Fire Department family.

After being sworn in by our town clerk March 17 at the Gaelic American Club flag-raising ceremony, I knew this would be a new chapter in my service to our town. I would be the first Democratic woman to serve and only the second woman to serve as a commissioner.

We gathered to meet monthly, then at the Jennings Road Station No. 2. It was evident how busy our department was as the tone went off and our fire fighters were off to so many calls. We dealt with many issues, from budget items to grievances. Although we did not always agree, we could leave a meeting and act in a civil manner.

It was my honor to attend our many award ceremonies,testing sessions, interviews for officers, training programs, parades, meetings with selected to attend the fire academy and their graduations.

This period spanned three first selectmen. Someone who has served us well is Fire Chief Richard Felner. He was never too busy to return a call or to listen to a concern or to a question. As a former educator, I always valued educational opportunities for the members of our Fire Department. This will serve us well into the future.

As the demands change, Chief Felner has encourages his team members to attend conferences. That is where we find out about new opportunities for the department. We have obtained many grants and secured funds for our town.

The role of the future Fire Department will be in the hands of highly educated men and women. The challenges and opportunities for the next generationof Fairfield's Fire Department will require those with new skill sets and advanced training and degrees.

During my tenure, I am pleased to see how close your Fire and Police departments work together. The fine work of our Southport and Stratfield volunteers are part of our fine team, sharing our outstanding chaplin, the Rev. Charles Allen. We have so many fine retired members of the Fairfield Fire Department.

So may Fairfield continue to be in the safe hands of our Emergency Services personnel. They are ready 24/7 to keep Fairfield secure.

It has been my honor to serve as a fire commissioner. I have had the opportunity to work with many others to continue to make our Fairfield Fire Department second to none.

Susan P. Barrett