Annual Report of President Michael R. Faust
June 26, 2020
First Vice President Walker, Second Vice President McCrea, Executive Committee Chairman Blackiston, Vice Chairman Lutz, members of the Executive Committee, Committee Chairs, MSFA Officers, and Members of the MSFA,
Before I get into my annual report, I would like to take a moment to recognize the passing of a few dedicated men.
Chief John W. Hoglund was a true leader and mentor to a lot of our States senior leaders. John was a nationally renowned leader in the fields of firefighting education, fire prevention, and public safety. He was also known as a man of faith, family, and service.
Past President Robert “Knip” Knippenberg was a 60-year member of the Midland Fire Company where he had served as President and Chief. He was also Past President of the Allegany Garrett Counties Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association and the Maryland State Firemen’s Association. He was also a field instructor for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. Knip was a true leader in the MSFA and will be missed.
Allen Steele was a past President of the Pennsylvania State Firemen Association and a true friend to the MSFA and LAMSFA. He had a talent for woodcrafts which he used to support the MSFA and LAMSFA. Allen enjoyed coming to O.C. Maryland to see his firemen friends and family. His woodcraft donations each year to help the Bessie Marshall Fund has helped numerous members when they were in need. He will be missed, especially at our conventions, for many years to come.
May these men, and all the other members we have lost this year, Rest In Peace.
This year went by extremely fast but the three Presidents worked well together and I am hopeful that it will continue for years to come. I have always said that communication is the key and we have done a great job doing just that. I would like thank First Vice President Chuck Walker and Second Vice President Joel McCrea for their partnership and teamwork over the past year. I think we made a formidable team. I believe the key to this was open and honest communication and attending meetings together when possible. We rode together to not only save money for the Association, but it also gave us a chance to talk. Likewise, the three of us communicated regularly with the Secretary, Executive Director, and the other Officers of the Association.
As you all know we are in unprecedented times with the coronavirus and everything basically being shut
down. We had to postpone our March executive committee meeting to a date that is yet to be
determined and we are also making plans for a modified 2020 Convention at this time. I would like to
thank Convention Committee Chair Ron Siarnicki and his committee for stepping up in addressing this
major concern. They have had regular meetings with the leadership of the MSFA to discuss where we are
with the convention and what steps we need to take to ensure we are doing all we can to follow our bylaws
and conduct the necessary business of this Association. They have been working on contingency
plans but the details have not been released.
As I mentioned above, the latter part of my year as President has been significantly impacted by the
coronavirus. We had to stop all in-person meetings and functions around the State but myself and the
other officers of the association have remained active and doing our best to communicate with all the
members about any issues. A couple of the things that have be done during this period include a letter to
the Governor at the end of March requesting that our partner, MFRI, be allowed to continue essential
training for volunteers to put more first responders on the street. I received the correspondence below
from the Office of Legal Counsel.
Date: April 13, 2020
Re: Order of the Governor of the State of Maryland, Number 20-03-30-01, dated March 30, 2020,
Amending and Restating the Order of March 23, 2020, Prohibiting Large Gatherings and Events
and Closing Senior Centers, and All Non-Essential Businesses and Other Establishments,
Additionally Requiring All Persons to Stay at Home.
At this time, the Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) recommends that the Administration interpret the
above-referenced Order as follows
1. Volunteer Fire, EMS, and SAR Training. The Order does not prohibit volunteer firefighters,emergency medical personnel, and search and rescue personnel from participating in mission critical training exercises and programs in groups of 10 persons or less, provided that all applicable social-distancing guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health is adhered to.
At the time of writing this report we are also drafting a letter to the Governor about the fiscal impact of
the virus on volunteer fire companies and a joint letter with the State FOP and IAFF regarding adding the
COVID-19 virus to the list of presumptive conditions for both workmen’s compensation and the loss of life
benefits for all first responders. I am also working with the VCAF Committee on a letter to the Maryland
Military regarding VCAF loan concerns.
Before we left the beach in 2019, we met with our State partners on Tuesday afternoon to discuss
current and pending issues but also how we (the three Presidents) plan to communicate with our
partners and officers more frequently. First, we promised a “Note from the Desk of the President” after
each Executive Committee meeting. It is not “official” communication but simply the things we think they
need to know. The first note was sent out to our partners, MSFA Officers, and Past Presidents shortly
after the convention. Second, Executive Committee Chairman Blackiston promised to send the Officers
and Partners the Executive Committee agenda well in advance of the three meetings to give them a
chance to prepare. The first of these was sent in Mid-August. I have heard back from most of the
partners and they are very pleased with both.
This year we said that myself, Chuck, and Joel would talk often and we did. We discussed pending issues
as well as things they want to accomplish during their terms. I felt it is my job to set them up for success.
To that end, I believe both Chuck and Joel plan to continue to have the partners meeting each year at the
beach and both have said they intend to keep the note from the desk of the President going during their
terms, if they are elected to lead this Association.
Executive Committee Chair Robbie Blackiston and I met before the beach to discuss our Executive
Committee Meetings and the changes we felt needed to be made. Robbie wanted to make sure our year
would be successful. The changes we discussed, and he decided to implement, included activities to
starting on both days by 9:00. On Saturday the actual Executive Committee meeting started at 10:30. The
time from 9:00 to 10:30 was set aside for committees to meet as well as include our partners. It was our
hope that the committees and our partners would use this time to discuss pending issues and then report
to the Executive Committee at the same time. We did this to allow all parties to be in the room to answer
questions. I believe both changes were impactful and people appreciated the change.
Sunday meetings mainly consisted of MSFA business and they started at 9:00. Robbie set the attire for
Sunday meetings as business casual. He felt, and I agreed, that it is more professional and appropriate
since we are doing meaningful business of the Association.
We also left the beach having addressed a concern with an appeals process for decisions made by the
Trustees. The leadership of the MSFA worked with the Trustees to develop the appeals process which was
discussed at the Executive Committee meeting on Thursday. The Trustees also went through their
manual and made sure it was up to date. This was no small undertaking and I appreciate their efforts.
Shortly after leaving the beach, I submitted our letter to Governor Hogan. Although I didn’t ask for an
increase in our allotment, I did address our immediate need to have the funding source for the VCAF
program to be turned back on. In addition to sending the letter to the Governor, the three Presidents,
Executive Director Tomanelli, and Legislative Chair Roth met with David R. Brinkley Secretary of Budget
and Management regarding several issues including turning back on the funding source for VCAF. As
anticipated, those funds are currently being directed to fund other items in the State. We expressed to
him our need of the funds but left the meeting without a final resolution. We didn’t expect him to be
able to do anything currently, but he is aware of our needs. Vice Presidents Walker and McCrea agreed to
continue to pursue this during their terms.
In early August we held our Leadership Summit which I found very valuable. Our goals were to improve
the effectiveness in communication as a team and to build unity of purpose. If you want to learn more
about what was discussed I encourage you to go YouTube and search for “Ted Talks Golden Circle”. I
think this concept will help the Association and our member companies with Recruitment and Retention.
It’s a new approach that should prove to be very impactful. I would like to thank Skip Mahan and Kate
Tomanelli for their efforts in making this summit a success.
R&R committee – Since it was mentioned above I will comment on it now. We made some major changes
to this committee. In addition to adding a few new people, we split the committee into a Recruitment
Sub-committee and a Retention sub-committee. Although it is still one committee overall, recruitment
and retention are completely different issues and I feel breaking them out will help focus on both
simultaneously. We also worked with a fire company to propose a bylaw change to move this committee
from a standing committee to a regular committee. The leaders of the Association need the ability to
make changes to this committee without requiring a by-law change. We hope this change is approved. I
want to thank PP John Denver for stepping up to lead this committee. As promised, I will be glad to help
in any capacity with this committee going forward.
I also spoke with John Denver and his committee about concerns with COVID-19. He reached out stating
that they have a concern about retention post virus. He has asked that we write a letter thanking our
membership for their efforts during the pandemic as well as a letter to the Governor requesting special
recognition for those identified by the MSFA as going above and beyond during this time. We would ask
the companies to submit the names of those individuals to the R&R Committee and we would work on
citations from the State and the MSFA.
Legislative Committee – This year has been a fast-paced year in Annapolis and it was cut short by the
pandemic. I would like to thank Chair Johnie Roth, Vice Chairs Teresa Ann Crisman & Jimmy Malone and
the entire committee for all they did for us in Annapolis. My thanks also goes out to the members of the
LAMSFA for all they did. The entire team had many late nights and a few early mornings, but they have
done an incredible job for our members and the citizens of Maryland. They also assisted our partners
with their concerns as well. I will highlight one example. We, and our other partners, stood with Fire
Marshal Geraci to ensure his office becomes the sprinkler enforcement agency.
I would also like to note that our legislative reception was held on January 14th and it was a very
successful event. There was a fantastic turnout. Lt Governor Rutherford, Attorney General Frosh,
Comptroller Franchot, Speaker of the House Jones, and President of the Senate Ferguson all stopped by
to show support as did many Senators and Delegates. I would like to thank everyone that helped make
this event such a success and our partners for joining us.
Fire Prevention and Life Safety – One of the most important things we do as an organization is work to
reduce fatalities and promote fire prevention. This year’s annual event had to be postponed but I
encourage everyone to attend at least one of these events. You will learn a lot and it is one of the events
where we work hand-in-hand with several of our partners. I thank Teresa Ann, her committee, and our
partners do a phenomenal job with this program and I applaud their efforts.
Safer Grant – Although we were unsuccessful in obtaining a 2018 Safer Grant, it was not due to lack of
effort. We were told they “ran out of funds” before they could get to our application. We have high
hopes for the 2019 Safer Grant which we were recently told will be opening up on April 13, 2020 and will
close prior to the convention. I hope we are able to obtain the funds so that we can hire staff to help with
Recruitment and Retention.
New website – The redesigned MSFA.org site went live in late November. It is a much easier site to
navigate and simply cleaner. The previous site had a lot of outdated information for members and others
that have not visited the site in months, so they took this opportunity to “start fresh”. We had everyone
register as if they were new to the site. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused but it will be
better in the long run.
MSFA Vanity Tags – Early in my term we addressed the ongoing issues with MSFA Vanity Tags. I requested
a meeting with the people at the MVA in mid-August. I wanted to hear directly from them as to what the
hang-ups were, and I wanted to see if there was a way to streamline the process because it has become a
deterrent to membership rather than a benefit.
Wayne Tome agreed to be the new Chairman of this Committee and Frank Underwood will stay on as
Vice Chairman. As requested, Wayne set up the meeting which was attended by all three Presidents, our
Executive Director, Frank Underwood, and Wayne Tome and the three representatives of the MVA that
manage the program. During this meeting, we were able to eliminate a lot of paperwork for both the
MVA and the MSFA.
I believe the bulk of this issues with this program are behind us. Again, I want to thank our staff in
Crofton, Chair Wayne Tome and Vice Chair Frank Underwood for their efforts in getting this under
501c3 Tax Status Change – We continue to make progress on this and I am hopeful it will be in place by
Charter Amendment – According to Michael Farlow, the charter amendment has been approved. At this
point it’s a matter of going through the application process for the change in status. We will continue to
keep everyone informed.
Member Database – For several years we have been getting contact information from MFRI. The list has
been compiled by myself and Jonathan Dayton and we hope to have our first email sent to the list before
the convention. We are in the process of screening out duplicates and then plan to work with our IT team
to incorporate them into our website. This project has been going on for years and we now have a solid
list and a way to continue to add new members as they take courses with MFRI. We must get this done.
Law Books – I would like to thank Past President Mark Bilger for his work on getting the fire law books
printed. They were given to the Executive Committee Members at our December meeting for distribution
to their various counties and companies.
It would take me a long time to provide updates on every committee but I truly want to thank all of the
committees for a fantastic year. I cannot thank you enough.
I would also like to thank Bay District and Sudlersville for hosting two of my meetings and Level for
agreeing to host our third meeting. I appreciate their flexibility caused by the postponing of the March
One fun thing we did this year at an Executive Committee meeting involved giving State Comptroller Peter
Franchot the axe at the December meeting in Sudlersville. It was our way of recognizing him for his
continued support of the volunteer fire service in Maryland. He was beyond excited to receive this honor
from the MSFA.
Pictured below left to right are 1st VP Chuck Walker, Comptroller Franchot, myself, and 2nd VP Joel
This ends my report. I would like to take a moment thank all the Officers, Executive Committee
Members, Committee Chairs, members of the MSFA and LAMSFA as well as our partners for their support
during my term as President. I am honored to represent this incredible organization as the 2019-2020
1st VP Chuck Walker, we have been friends since the day we joined the Executive Committee. I am
honored to have served with you then and even more so now. I appreciate your support, your honesty,
and friendship. We made a great team and I am here for you next year.
2nd VP Joel McCrea, I have enjoyed our time together this year. You jumped right in and I think you
attended even more meetings than either Chuck or myself. I am confident that you will have a positive
impact on the MSFA.
I would like to thank all of the Past Presidents for their support but especially PP Steve Cox and PP Fred
Cross for their support from the very beginning. I appreciate your friendship most of all.
PP and Secretary Doyle Cox. I know we didn’t always agree on things but we had respect for each other. I
appreciate all you did to help me and all that you do for the Association.
PP Phil Hurlock, thank you for also showing me the way. I remember when you ran for President. That
was when I first thought about getting involved at the State level. I didn’t know if I could do it but here I
Executive Committee Chairman Robbie Blackiston, thank you for stepping up and agreeing to represent
Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Caroline Counties and for being my Executive Committee Chairman. I could not
be more proud of the job you have done and what we did together. I am here to support you in whatever
you want to do for the MSFA in the future.
Executive Director Kate Tomanelli, thank you for all you have done for the MSFA in your first two years in
this position. Being our first Executive Director and having to learn to navigate your way through an
organization that has been around for more than 125 years is no small feat. I appreciate your work on the
grant, our website redesign, vanity tags, R&R events, attending meetings with our partners when I
couldn’t, and stepping up in Annapolis. These are just a few of the things you have done but I just wanted
you to know that I appreciate it.
I also want to recognize and thank the Officers and members of the LAMSFA. President Lori Denbow,
Senior VP Donna Struntz, and Junior VP Becky Wathen, it has truly been a pleasure working with all of
you. I appreciate the work your organization does for the MSFA and the citizens of Maryland. There are a
few committees where we work side by side including in Annapolis and the Cancer Support Network just
to mention two. Your participation in these committees is extremely important to their success.
I would like to thank the Officers and Members of the Sudlersville Volunteer Fire Company for their
support as well. I appreciate the large contingency that came to the beach in 2019 to support me. It
meant more to me than I can ever express.
I want to thank my family. I would like to thank my mother Faye Williams for all she did and does for me.
She is the reason I am the man I am today.
I would like to thank my sons for being such honorable and dedicated young men. To their significant
others, thank you as well.
Last and most importantly I want to thank my wife Stacey for supporting me as I went through the offices
to become the President. There were numerous missed dinners and you accompanied me to events, but I
simply could not have done it without you and your understanding support. I know these past couple of
years have not been easy for you personally but I am proud of how you have handled it. You inspire me
and others. I love you.
Just to be clear, I am not going anywhere. I will fully support Chuck, Joel, and the other Presidents that
follow. I’m still just a phone call away.
Michael R. Faust