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Aug 31 2015

Honoring Chief Werner’s Decades of Service

By Bob Greenberg

Topics: FirefightingHomeland Security

On August 29, the Charlottesville, Virginia Fire Department (CFD) hosted an event in honor of retiring Fire Chief Charles Werner who is stepping down from active duty service after 37 years in public service. The event was held at the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville and drew a host of fans and admirers, including local residents; members of the CFD; local, state and federal government representatives; academia; law enforcement leaders; and others including our own G&H International Services, Inc. (G&H) staff.  This group of people—a wide spectrum of professionals dedicated to public safety and community resilience—was collectively chomping at the bit to accomplish one thing: let Charles and everyone else know the impact he has had on their lives, their careers, and their professions. During the evening, Charles received accolades, awards, and proclamations from numerous organizations including CFD, the State Legislature, the University of Virginia, the Charlottesville Volunteer Fire Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), Esri (the global leader in GIS technology), and us. In the midst of the laundry list of Charles’s accomplishments and the many anecdotes that helped illustrate them, more than one tear was shed. We each knew what Charles means to us, but to hear what he means to others was overwhelmingly inspiring.

We at G&H have known and worked with Charles for over 15 years.  During his storied career, Charles has not only working unceasingly to improve fire and emergency services in Charlottesville (and recently has dedicated one of the most advanced fire stations and training centers in the nation), but has also played a major national role working to advance communications and data interoperability for public safety on a national level.  As we all know, those two issues: (1) interoperability, and (2) information sharing, are two of the top issues that need to be addressed to improve our nation’s ability to improve our homeland security and resilience.  

The simple fact (as was resoundingly stated at the event) is that we would not have made the advances in these areas without the leadership of Charles. Charles has served as the Chair and leader of major national efforts including Project SAFECOM, the national/presidential interoperability program; the Strategic Resources Group, which helped guide DHS’s national Virtual USA® information sharing initiative; the National information Sharing Consortium, comprised of state, local government, private sector, academia, and not-for-profit organizations committed to solving the national information  shortfall; and the White House-supported Incident Management Information Sharing Subcommittee. But, wait for it…I’m not done yet… Let’s not forget his leading work with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in which he created their Technology Committee, various State and Regional committees and working groups  and was a pioneer in the application of GIS (digital mapping) technology to improve situational awareness and decision support (Esri’s award recognizes this).

Whew! And that’s just a fraction of the activities that compose Charles’s portfolio. 

Charles particular talent, in addition to his commitment to innovation and prescient recognition of the role of technology, is the ability to articulate issues and initiatives in ways that everyone can grasp them, AND (even more crucial), he is able to bring people together to act on them. He does this in a way that enables people to enjoy the ride and we find ourselves reflecting his own commitment to change.

On a personal level, Charles has been an incredible colleague, peer, leader and mentor to me. Working with Charles has been a pleasure and an honor.  I’m thrilled that even though he’s retiring from government, he’s not retiring from public service. I’m really looking forward to his second act. Thank you Charles. The nation is better for you.  

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