Another View -- Jason Griffin: Councilor Bob Hamel should reflect on his disrespectful commentsBy JASON GRIFFIN
July 16. 2018 9:50PM
At a recent Laconia Council meeting, Councilor Bob Hamel said, “I know you guys think you can walk on water...” when in fact, that’s not what Laconia’s 36 firefighters think.
After years of contention around staffing levels, overtime line items, equipment resources, and employee morale, the Laconia Professional Fire Fighters wish to move forward with a vision for a better Laconia. This starts, however, with an open dialogue with respect to safer conditions for both the public and the trained, experience professionals serving on the front lines in an increasingly dangerous profession.
As president of our local, it is my duty to represent our members to get better working conditions, build morale, and address concerns for the public relative to line firefighters’ service to the community at-large. Hamel’s comments only drag Laconia further behind. It is perfectly acceptable to professionally disagree about spending levels and the allocation of taxpayer resources. However, to mock a fallen firefighter is unacceptable.
While a knee-jerk attempt to clarify his remarks toward another deceased member of our community was made, the facts don’t line up. The incident in question some 50 years ago occurred on another side of town, was unrelated to the fire department, and involved a predecessor to Councilor Hamel in the seat that he’s held for six terms; in comparison to a tragedy much more recently with Fire Lt. Mark Miller at the Weirs dock, which Councilor Hamel more accurately referred to.
Even if Hamel’s comments were of the former, I am at a loss for words that he would mock a fellow veteran of the foreign war in which his father fought for our country. Hamel must cease his derogatory comments regarding public servants in a not-dissimilar role to protect us from harm.
Elected officials serve in a role to direct public servants on how to put into action policies and standards for the greater public good. Laconia’s firefighters put our whole hearts, minds and bodies into this community, which requires effective and efficient protection. The current morale in the city of Laconia Fire Department is a direct reflection of officials’ tactics to drag us all — employees, officials, and taxpayers — down.
Laconia thrives upon its welcoming, community-focused nature. Firefighters and paramedics serving Laconia sit at a table much different from the horseshoe at City Hall. When one man or woman drags down the rest, we hold each other accountable. Our work to lift up the residents and visitors to Laconia relies upon our passion for the greater good. When the call ends, we return to our kitchen table together and discuss what we could do better.
At the earliest opportunity, I hope Councilor Hamel’s colleagues at that horseshoe would take some firefighter advice — lift each other up for a better Laconia, hold each other accountable, and ensure these disparaging comments never happen again.
Jason Griffin is the president of the Laconia Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 1153.