For the past 20 years, Robert Border Jr. has dedicated his life to protecting the fine citizens of the city of Sebring. Last week, he not only was recognized as Firefighter of the Year, but he was also rewarded for his hard work and dedication when he was promoted to be the city’s new fire chief.
Border knows a little something about public service.
His dad retired as a fire captain in Avon Park and had volunteered with the city fire department before he became a career firefighter. His dad and his grandfather both also served the city of Avon Park as city council members. So being a servant of the public is something that Border grew up around.
The city council was quick to act last week on the selection committee’s recommendation to offer Border the chief’s position after only a short couple of months serving in the interim capacity following the firing of Brad Batz. Batz is now employed as the City of Avon Park’s fire chief.
Border received his Fire Standards from Hillsborough Community College. A year later, he became a certified Emergency Medical Technician. He continued his education to become a state certified fire inspector at three levels, and became an adjunct fire instructor at South Florida State College in 2015, when the college opened its new Fire Academy.
Yes, he knows his stuff, but isn’t arrogant about it. If arrogance was a characteristic of his, it’s not likely his peers would have unanimously voted by secret ballot to name him this year’s VFW Firefighter of the Year. That designation was determined prior to, but was not announced until his promotion last week.
Council members also said Border was strongly supported by the firefighter union and some local business owners. Having representatives from both sides step forward to have their voices heard about an individual can speak volumes.
On his application, Border said he is “an effective communicator with the ability to take staff input into consideration and ultimately decide on an outcome that is in the best interest of the department and the city.” He called himself a hands-on manager, saying it is important to lead the department by example, “understanding that loyalty in staff comes from clear directions and a feeling of appreciation.”
Border also said he has a strategic plan for moving the department into the future.
He has already streamlined the probationary process for new firefighters. He has also developed a booklet to let probationary employees know what is expected of them.
Border also plans to work with business owners to solve fire code issues while ensuring the end result is that life safety code regulations are met.
Becoming fire chief was not part of Border’s plan when he joined the fire service 20 years ago. He said it “just happened.”
As David Flowers said in his letter of recommendation, Border “doesn’t have to be trained in how to lead … he is already doing it, and doing it well.” Flowers should know. He too has a long history in public service and is the son of the late Mack Flowers, who retired in 1988 from the city of Avon Park.
We think the city made a wise choice in promoting Border to fire chief. Fortunately for the city of Sebring, he saw an open door and walked through it.