Spiteful reactions to opinions and suggestions that differ from their own

To the Editor;

It has taken me a while to prepare a written response to the announcement regarding the termination and later resignation of Michael Bauer from the Torrington Fire Department after 25 years of service. I have taken the time to get my emotions and thoughts in order as it has been a very emotional time for the Bauer family. Being on the Torrington Fire Department is something the Bauer family has done for generations, it was like a right of passage from boy to man in our family. We have a long, proud history of Fire Chiefs, our grandfather, uncle and then Mike as the latest and greatest. What the community of Torrington knows is that Mike lived and breathed the fire department. He worked tirelessly to ensure the firefighters under him were well trained, knowledgeable and compassionate. He took great pride in helping his community and surrounding area and has always been there to answer the call. There in the time of need and there after the flames have settled and the smoke has cleared - he loves his community and holds the safety of its residents in the highest regard.

I also want to speak to the termination of the volunteer Torrington Fire Department Deputy Chief, Ed Look. How is it even reasonable that a man with his experience, training and dedication can be fired from a volunteer position. I am not sure if this is a well known fact - but Mr. Look is a retired, highly trained and decorated firefighter and paramedic. Being a firefighter/paramedic with the City of Calgary is what this man did for a living! Even in his retirement this man was willing to give back to his community by continuing to deal with the calls, emotions and stress of a first responder. There are very few volunteer firefighters out there that are more qualified than Mr. Look - and yet he is fired from his volunteer position for taking a stand and offering facts in a letter that our elected council and appointed CAO found offensive.

I am not writing this letter on a tangent, I was provided with a copy of the infamous letter that was sent to Kneehill County prior to the announcement of Mike and Ed’s termination. The only problem I anticipated after reading the letter was that it was going to ruffle some feathers - and why? - because it was honest and to the point. I joked that it was going to hurt some feelings.

My suggestion to our elected Kneehill County Councillors and to our appointed CAO - is this - grow some thicker skin - this letter cannot possibly be the first received to outline the faults with the leadership and concerns of Kneehill County residents. Generations before us fought and died to allow each of us the freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and the right to live in a democratic country and it frustrates and disappoints me that two dedicated and highly trained men, with over 53 years of experience between them, lost their volunteer positions because of a strongly worded letter. Valuable men who lost their volunteer positions because they expressed their right to speak freely and offer opinions on change for the betterment of their community.

What frustrates me even more is that public outcry and opinion do not seem to matter to our council. Kneehill County’s way to right the wrong is to hire an individual and spend over $100,000.00 on an annual wage, instead of filtering those funds to the local fire departments. Can you imagine the impact of dividing $100,000.00 annually between the fire halls! Our volunteer firefighters might actually have equipment that works!!!

My point to writing this letter to the Editor was to open the eyes and minds of the Kneehill County residents and residents of the surrounding communities. Our fire departments are a necessity, not just to help save our homes and farms, but to be there as first responders for motor vehicle accidents and natural disasters. Everyone of us out there, has been on the receiving end of their assistance or know someone who has. We are small communities with generations of families and neighbours and every single one of us have been touched in one way or another by our local fire departments and first responders. There have been several articles and comments posted on social media over the last few months and it has become clear that public opinion means nothing to the people the Kneehill County residents have elected. Perhaps it is time the people elected to serve our county step up and answer the questions flying around and open their ears to the concerns brought forth by the people who elected them. The residents of Kneehill County elected them in good faith, trusting the needs and concerns of the people would be held in the highest priority. I do not believe for one second that any of the people elected would have received their position if the residents of Kneehill County knew how quickly their feelings would be hurt or how spiteful their reactions would be to opinions and suggestions that differ from their own.

Patty Fenton

Raised in Kneehill County and now resident of the Town of Three Hills