'Moved the yardstick forward': Essa Township says farewell to fire chief Cynthia Ross Tustin

Essa Township's former fire chief Cynthia Ross Tustin has set her sails into retirement.

Ross Tustin vacated the position on May 15, after about seven-and-a-half years managing the volunteer fire department.

Not only was Ross Tustin the township’s first female fire chief, she was the first woman to lead a department in all of Ontario when she took on the role in the fall of 2013.

In 2018, she also became the first woman elected to serve as president of Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC).

In her letter of resignation, Ross Tustin said she “thoroughly enjoyed” her time with the department and is “tremendously proud” of the work its members do each and every day.

When she stepped into the position, she said she envisioned her role not as being a boss, but “more akin to being a good steward.”

“I believe, as part of our team, I have done that,” she wrote in the letter. “I take both pride and comfort in knowing that I have contributed in small ways to a larger community good and that I have moved the yard stick forward for our firefighters.”

At the May 19 meeting, council approved a recommendation to form a recruitment committee, consisting of the mayor, deputy mayor, CAO and one or more fire chiefs, to meet and make recommendations to council on the steps forward.

In her report to council, CAO Colleen Healey-Dowdall said the committee will determine whether the current role is still suitable for the township.

The committee will consider various options, such as the possibility of cost-sharing, partnerships and regionalization.

She reminded council that Simcoe County continues to study the feasibility of a regional model for a fire department, and a report on this is expected to come before county council this fall.

Healey-Dowdall said one drawback of using a regional approach is the loss of control over services.

"One option in the short term is for the recruitment committee to look at a temporary contract with a consultant for immediate assistance, which would be of value to the health and wellness of the deputy," she wrote.


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