Firefighter of the Year was announced at the Annual General Meeting for the Marco Island Fire Foundation luncheon. Captain Leo Rodriguez was given the distinction of Firefighter of the Year.
Captain Tom Bogan made the announcement. He said the honoree spent eight years in the army in elite forces prior to coming to the department in 2006. In addition to the expected “he works well with everyone” and “leads by example,” Rodriguez developed the paging and mapping system for the county. “When we receive a call it automatically begins to map it out.” As if on cue, a call came in and immediately two firemen exited the stage. Bogan continued, he designed the department’s uniforms and patches. Through Captain Rodriguez’s efforts, the department now has a vital second set of bunker gear. Rodriguez is slated to take over the marine program when Captain Bogan retires. Bogan concluded by saying Leo is an asset to the department, to the City of Marco Island and the taxpayers. “I am honored to work with him.”
Chief Murphy commented, “Leo brought his military training with him to the department. He shows up ready to accomplish any task before him and he is a great mentor.”
After shaking the hands of those on stage, Captain Rodriguez said, “This is a surprise!” He thanked his family, his friends and those he worked with. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve this community.”
After lunch, a synopsis of the Foundation’s activities during the year was given by Steve Stefanides. In addition to the pancake breakfast, chili cook-off and scholarship awards, $30,000 was delivered to two fire departments in the panhandle, areas devastated by Hurricane Michael. A third of that donation came from a contribution by the Marco Patriots.
A traditional pinning ceremony took place when Grady Harrison was officially promoted to Training Division Chief, in charge of training and safety. A new badge was pinned to his uniform by his wife. Prior to joining the department in 2015, Harrison served ten years with Collier County EMS. He is also a former instructor of the EMT/Paramedic Program for Florida Southwestern.
A new board of directors was inducted by City Council Chair Erik Brechnitz. During Fire Chief Murphy’s comments, he spoke on the soon-to-be open Station 51 and the status of Station 50, which recently received approval from council to open discussions with an architect.