Captain Gene Shealy with the Newberry Fire Department has recently graduated from the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association Leadership Institute. The program allows participants to gain knowledge of the fire service by traveling around the state of South Carolina.

The 12-month program went through January 2019.

While the program is open to firefighters throughout the state, Shealy said it was geared toward current and future leaders of the fire service in South Carolina. Other members of the Newberry Fire Department have graduated from the program previously, including Fire Chief Keith Minick.

Each month throughout the past year, Shealy said the group travelled to different fire departments throughout the state to learn about their operations. This included special purpose tax districts, small and large municipal government fire departments, as well as combination fire departments.

“We discussed the different funding for the different sized departments as well as the issues that are currently in the fire service right now and what solutions were or were not working for these departments,” Shealy said.

The experience, Shealy said was eye opening as he was able to learn about what other departments were doing outside of Newberry County, but also to see where the Newberry Fire Department was excelling compared to others in the state.

“It was a great networking experience to really dive into the major concerns that we have in the fire service and to be a part of not only finding a solution for today, but for the future,” he said. “It really put things into perspective.”

Minick said the program allowed its participants to broaden their knowledge of the fire service throughout the state.

“His [Shealy’s] take away will assist him to better serve the city and county fire service as an officer and recruiter for the fire service,” Minick said.

Getting to gather ideas from others in South Carolina, Shealy said was something he enjoyed, and he hopes to bring the knowledge he gained back to Newberry to benefit the department.

“What I found amazing was that no matter what fire department you visit, no matter how large or small, we all fight the same battles,” Shealy said. “I think that was really eye-opening to me.”

Minick congratulated Shealy on his graduation and appreciated his desire to apply and put forth the effort to enhance his leadership abilities.

“He has had the opportunity to experience full career, combination, and volunteer fire-rescue departments around the state. To improve you must get outside the norm and see what is and what is not working,” he said. “This leadership institute is one of many ways to build great leaders.”

 Gene Shealy, left, pictured with Newberry Fire Chief Keith Minick as he receives his certificate of completion for the institute.