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Q&A: Taner Drake, new chief for Victoria Fire Department

By BY BRIAN CUARON - BCUARON@VICAD.COM
June 3, 2011 at 1:03 a.m.
Updated June 4, 2011 at 1:04 a.m.

Taner Drake, left, and City Manager Charmelle Garrett. Drake was sworn in on May 10 as the new fire  chief for the Victoria Fire Department.

MEET TANER DRAKE

Age: 44

Family: Married for 22 years. Daughter, 21, alumna of the University of Texas system. Son, 20, senior at the University of Texas at Austin.

Pets: Two Boston terrier dogs.

Hobbies: Likes to fish, but not good at it. Also likes camping, golf and outdoor activities.

Professional background: Worked for the Odessa Fire Department for 18 1/2 years. Served as a firefighter paramedic, company officer, assistant chief over fire operations and assistant chief over EMS operations.

Taner Drake was sworn in as the new fire chief of the Victoria Fire Department on May 10.

He replaced Vance Riley, who retired.

The Advocate sat down with Drake to get his thoughts on Victoria and his new job.

Why did you decide to come to Victoria?

I like the fact that it's really not close to anything, but it's close to everything. So they're out here on their own, so to speak, as far as the larger city in this immediate area, but yet in one and hours, two hours, you can be in the major cities.

What is your favorite local cuisine? (Victoria has good burgers.)

Honestly, I haven't had a real chance to go out and eat a whole lot. I've eaten at the stations probably more than I've eaten anywhere.

So I'd have to say right now, it's not a local cuisine, but fire station 4, B shift. They had a shrimp boil and they invited me and my son over to eat that, and that was absolutely incredible.

What do you like best about Victoria?

I'd say the people because that's the unknown when you go into some area.

The community as a whole has just been so welcoming and so friendly. And the department, on a side note, has been the same way.

How big of an impact does a fire chief have on a community?

Well, I think it's important that the community know who their fire chief is, the same way I think it's important they know who their police chief is. Those are two of the biggest agencies in a community. The fire chief, he's going to set that tone. And, if service delivery is not important to him, it's probably not going to be important to the department.

What are your goals as fire chief?

No. 1, I want our department to be as effective and efficient as possible.

When we really break down the things that we do, can we answer why? Why do we do this? Why are doing this, this way?

Let's really poke holes in it and try to find out. Is that the most effective way to deliver that service?

How will you accomplish those goals?

I don't want this to be my department. The bottom line is that the membership that's here, they've lived here and been members of this community for years and years and years. This is their department and it's important that I recognize that, and I don't just come in and just wholesale change things.

It's important to invest good time in relationships with the membership and then challenge them to think outside the box.

In today's time, a lot more (fire) departments are also involved in the delivery of EMS services, technical rescue, Hazmat, public education, building inspections, code reviews. It really grows and grows.

What is the fire department's biggest obstacle in the years ahead?

Making sure that you're staying on top of the standards in all of those areas is a challenge because you only got so many hours in a day. And, you still respond to lots of events during the day. So you have to be real creative in your time management to make sure that you're training stays at the highest level it can.

What role, if any, does the community play in the fire department's efforts?

This is a very simple thing, but just the community understanding when either a police officer or a fire truck or an ambulance, is on the way to a call, to pull to the right.

Firefighters and ambulance personnel still die at a pretty alarming rate nationwide on the way to calls.

What is your policy regarding acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the work place?

We should not be involved with anything we wouldn't mind reading in the paper the next day. When they're thinking about the things that they do in their normal every day activities, Is that something that's good for the city? Is it good for the department? And, is it good for the citizens? If the answer to any of that is no, then don't do it.

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