- Associated Press - Sunday, October 8, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Brad Goodroad found a love for fighting fires while working construction.

He developed an interest after talking to another construction worker’s father, who was a full-time firefighter. Growing up in a small South Dakota town with a volunteer fire department, Goodroad hadn’t ever considered firefighting as a full-time job.

Now, sitting in his new office lined with years of fire helmets and department history, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Goodroad has big plans for his team, including a more aggressive approach to recruiting a diverse crew, creating a more collaborative work environment and rebranding the department as its former chief faces major criminal charges in a high-profile case.

The Argus Leader (https://apne.ws/kIIH51K ) reports that Goodroad beat out seven other internal candidates and was selected to head the department in June, after the former chief retired. The 49-year-old Clear Lake native has been with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue for about 23 years, having made it on the department his second time applying. He had applied once to SFFR during college but nabbed the firefighter gig after graduating.

“It’s a competitive process,” Goodroad said. “Some people, they never get on. Sometimes they do right away. Some it takes a couple times.”

The road to chief was a natural but unexpected journey. Goodroad has a Master of Science degree in administrative studies from the University of South Dakota and completed executive fire officer training at the National Fire Academy in Maryland.

He served as a firefighter for about seven years before applying to be a fire apparatus operator, or driver. He progressed to captain, battalion chief and eventually to division chief.

He had no idea he was going to end up as fire chief until the position opened up.

Goodroad served as interim chief after former fire chief Jim Sideras announced his retirement.

It was shortly after his retirement announcement that Sideras was charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography in May. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has a pending trial date in November.

“That was a big hit to our people, our reputation,” Goodroad acknowledged. “I think eventually the community realized one person’s actions don’t reflect an entire organization, but we really worked hard on our branding.”

Department leaders responded as fully as they could, Goodroad said. Each member of the department received advice on how to talk to their families and the public about the situation. Clergy members, mental health professionals and a peer wellness group were made available.

“My message from the start was that we’re just going to move forward,” he said. “We’re not going to focus on that. We’re going to focus on everything we can control. Everybody is just ready to move on.”

Four months later, Goodroad sits at a table in the chief’s office and pulls out a full-page, single-spaced list of goals and hopes for his department. All of them align with the department’s newly named top values: respect, integrity, service and excellence, or RISE.

Battalion Chief Mark Bukovich has worked with Goodroad at nearly every rank and is excited to see a push for collaborative effort across the department and a closer look at additional health precautions.

“He’s not just expecting one area of the organization to solve an issue,” Bukovich said. “He’s going to take input. He’s going to listen.”

The new goals align well with having to submit the department’s new strategic five-year plan to the city. There’s also an upcoming public safety study that will look at the department’s efficiency, how stations operate, station placement and even look at the logistics of getting a new station in 2020.

Goodroad hopes to be more active in schools, introducing to middle school-aged students the idea of firefighting as a career. He’s continuing to reach out to diverse populations by meeting with groups and organizations to educate on what the fire department does and how it could be a career option for them as well.

“They may come from a different country and are used to different interactions,” he said. “They may have a fear of the badge. They may be afraid to ask questions. There could be language barriers. We’re going to figure out what we can do to better serve them and let them know that, hey, this is a job you can do.”

Between meeting with each city department head and implementing new physical and mental health precautions, Goodroad can be found exploring Good Earth and Newton Hills state parks, trekking the bike trails, venturing into downtown shops or hunting and kayaking. He’s a regular at Sioux Falls seasonal events, such as JazzFest, Hot Summer Nites and Hot Harley Nights.

Most of all, he’s focused on trying to point Sioux Falls Fire Rescue in a positive direction to close out a rough year. If fresh leadership can help turn the page and restore faith in what the department means to the city, he’s ready for that chapter to begin.

___

Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com


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