Denise Pouget says her goal is for fire & rescue to work together.
Frederick County's first fire chief was sworn in last Thursday. Chief Denise Pouget took the oath of office during a ceremony at Winchester Hall.
In addition to heading up the Division of Fire and Rescue, Pouget is also the first person to be in charge of all of fire and rescue in the county, including volunteers. "It's, I'd have to say, an enormous task, but I've prepared for it for 35 years, and I'm excited about it," she says.
Pouget got her start in the Fire Service in Montgomery County in 1981. She was Assistant Chief in the Alexandria, Va. Fire Department before being hired in Frederick County. Her career goal, she says, was being named chief. "I did not know Frederick County was opening. I was always looking on different sites to kind of see what fire chief jobs were open just to put that in back of my mind when I was ready. When I saw Frederick County open, I was just ecstatic," Pouget says.
She was hired in June by the County Commissioners, and formally took over on July 22nd.
Even before she took over, Chief Pouget made some changes in the Division of Fire and Rescue Services. She brought on Max Allen Keyser to the new position of deputy chief of operations. In addition, Michael Grierson was hired for another newly created position, deputy chief, finance and logistics. Doug Brown, who served as acting division director of DFRS, was named community services liaison. Steve Leatherman has been re-assigned from bureau chief of administrative services to finance and logistics administrator. And the very limited position of fire planner was given to John North. The post of director of fire and rescue volunteer services was eliminated.
Pouget says she made this move to bring unity to the Division. "There is no personal agendas. There is no issues where one side is against the other. We all have to be together," she says. "Starting with a fresh clean slate, having two people at the top to help me that come with completely fresh eyes; no bias."
But she says there was no bias on the part of the current staff. "I'm not accusing them of that. They were great individuals. Doug Brown and Steve Leatherman, they've stayed on with us. They have the institutional knowledge to help this department where it needs to be," says Chief Pouget. She says these moves will encompass all of fire and rescue, not just DFRS.
As part of the reorganization, Chief Pouget says she will be the point of contact for the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. She says she wants to work closely with the volunteers. "All week long, we've been out visiting with chiefs, having lunch, coffee, sitting down in their stations and talking to them about what their needs are," she says. "Because, absolutely, Frederick County can't do without the volunteers and they can't do without the career. It's about getting them together on one page. So I am making myself personally available to them."
"This leaderships team is about collaboration and unity and professionalism. There's no sides. It's about coming together as one and doing what's right," says Pouget.