BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners on March 23 recognized the achievement of Hernando County Fire Rescue Chief Scott Hechler for earning a certification that distinguishes him as a Chief Fire Officer.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers described the arduous process of applying for the credential through the Center for Public Safety Excellence. Hechler had to present a portfolio of his career that highlighted his education, experience, professional development training, certifications, professional contributions and recognitions, professional memberships and affiliations, technical competence and community involvement. Along with these items, Hechler had to include letters of recommendation to be submitted and reviewed.
“The reviewer provided back to me is a county administrator,” Rogers said. “His thoughts on this application is that it’s the best application he’s personally ever seen.”
Rogers added that there are roughly 1,500 Chief Fire Officers in the United States that have earned this honor. He credits Hechler for providing the best fire service in the county through the level of professionalism and training that happens on a daily basis. Hechler joined Hernando County Fire in June 2014 and he now serves as director of public safety and fire chief. His professional fire service career began in Chesterfield County, Virginia, in 1982 at 18 years old.
“Continuous learning has always been an aspiration of mine,” Hechler said. “I’ve been thinking about pursuing this for quite a while. I thought it was more important to focus on our people and the department than myself, and so when I had the opportunity in the past year to work toward this, I decided to do that.”
With approximately 29,000 fire departments in the country, according to Hechler, few have made the effort to pursue the designation. Hechler explained that it was important to him to be a part of it, not just for himself but to inspire his chief officers to consider the same. They have since both started working on their portfolios, Hechler said, adding that he was proud of them.
The commissioners expressed their thanks and jokingly refused to accept that Hechler is thinking about retiring one day.
“I haven’t really had the opportunity to spend much time with you,” Commissioner Beth Narverud said, “but just working with a lot of your men and your team, I can tell what a fine leader you are and I’m really honored to have you here in Hernando County.”
Commission Chairman John Allocco recommended that Narverud do an overnight shift with the team. “It is enlightening,” he said. “That was quite an evening I did early on in my first term. I didn’t really spend the night because I was up the whole night, many trips to many places.”
Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he remembered a time when the county went through a gyration of chiefs and as chairman at the time, it was his recommendation to the county administrator to bring in an applicant from outside the county. Although it didn’t happen early on, Dukes said he was appreciative to see how Hechler showed his mettle while occupying the position.