Firefighters begin recruitment effort 200 volunteers sought in $25,000 media drive financed by taxpayers

April 09, 1996|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel volunteer firefighters kicked off a $25,000 taxpayer-financed media campaign yesterday that they hope will attract 200 volunteers by June.

The county executive's decision to pay for the first countywide call for volunteers in eight years notes a marked change in the relationship between the volunteers and the county executive's office.

Former County Executive Robert R. Neall spent most of his term at odds with the volunteers, trying to bring them under control of the fire administrator. Volunteers accused the administrator of trying to usurp the authority of the volunteer chiefs and the rank and file.

But County Executive John G. Gary's $25,000 for the volunteers this fiscal year and an additional $25,000 next fiscal year seems to have healed the old wounds.

"Under the Gary administration, there has been a great improvement," said Arthur L. Spencer, president of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Fire Fighters' Association and chief of Arundel Company 7 near Crofton.

The new campaign is a prime example of the new era of cooperation, volunteers said. There has been no countywide effort to attract volunteers since the 1980s, Mr. Spencer said, because there's been no money for recruiting.

But Mr. Gary said he sees the contribution as a small investment in one of the county's financial assets. About 760 volunteers staff fire trucks and ambulances.

"The role volunteers play is substantial to us," Mr. Gary said at a news conference at the West Annapolis Volunteer Fire Company. "They have a positive effect on our [bond rating], and they play a much-needed personnel role for us. We're going to do a little investment into them so that they can do a little more investment into the community."

The campaign's slogan is: "Be a hero volunteer."

A 30-second public service announcement will be broadcast on local cable channels through June 20. The campaign also will include a radio announcement, pamphlets, posters, newspaper ads and a video on volunteering. Speakers will tour high schools and civic associations, and the association has a hot line number: (410) 923-JOIN.

Pub Date: 4/09/96

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