In celebration of Leadership Geauga’s 25th Anniversary Year, we thought you’d enjoy reading about a few of the many alumni whose Leadership Geauga experience is helping them make a positive difference in our community. This month, the Class of 2020 will be participating in Health and Safety Day, so we’ve chosen for our profile a trail-blazing Fire Chief who is an alumnus of the Class of 2018: Meet Bainbridge Township Fire Department Chief Lou Ann Metz. – Written by Paige Orvis
SERVANT LEADERSHIP DEFINES FIRE CHIEF
Bainbridge Township celebrated two “firsts” in August 2016 when they hired Fire Department Chief Lou Ann Metz. Being the first full time chief and first female chief pushed the door wide open to make a significant impact on the community of Bainbridge and Geauga County.
Chief Metz has a long history in public service, having been in firefighting for 40 years with certifications as a paramedic, fire safety inspector and Search and Rescue (SAR) technician, which she currently performs with her dog Grissom. One year after her hire, she joined Leadership Geauga Class of 2018 to add to her credentials.
Going through Leadership Geauga’s 10-month course opened many doors for Chief Metz. Since she was new to the county in her role as fire chief, it was imperative to get acquainted with the many services available, so she would be able to build bridges and make referrals for her own community. The knowledge gained would help her perpetuate her view of Geauga County, which is much like her hometown of Randolph, Ohio – “neighbors taking care of neighbors.”
She became particularly impressed with the vast array of social services available through groups like United Way Services, Department on Aging, Jobs and Family Services and First Step. For Chief Metz, the Leadership program opened lines of communication with law enforcement, government and the business community.
Getting better acquainted with the business community is also helping her to drive several initiatives for Bainbridge Township. One of her goals is to improve the department’s ISO (International Standards for Operation) score by improving its fire protection rating. Improved service ratings are beneficial to business in many ways, including reducing liability insurance. She believes “fire protection is business protection.”
Since taking the class, Chief Metz has worked on several major initiatives, including adding nine full-time firefighters to the transitioning department, bringing all standards in line with national standards, and improving her department’s response times. She also initiated a “Citizens Academy,” which is a six-week course, open to the general public, providing a practical overview of firefighting in order to expand the community’s understanding of what it takes to run a fire department.
Chief Metz credits her servant leadership philosophy to her upbringing. As the only girl of 11 children, her values and strong work ethic were molded at an early age. “Service before self” is at the heart of her values. She explains: “It costs nothing to be nice; it costs your job to be nasty.”
She has found Leadership Geauga to be a great resource for perpetuating strong leaders, providing tools for working in teams, building bridges and opening doors for collaborations.
“The true mark of Leadership Geauga is in how it continually gives to the community. Their net return is enormous in the same way a teacher’s impact is multiplied by the lives they influence. This is how far-reaching the impact of Leadership Geauga.”