“Playing With Fire”: Tallahassee Firefighters, Bill Proctor Hold Town Hall

Over 130 Leon County residents filled the Bruce J. Host Northeast Branch Library, in a standing-room-only Town Hall co-hosted by County Commissioner Bill Proctor and Tallahassee Professional Firefighters President Joey Davis last week.

The town hall was focused on the city firefighters’ sub-competitive wages and working hours compared to neighbors in comparable markets, amid a year-long political battle between firemen one one side against Mayor John Dailey and top city administrators.

Davis told the crowd that three firefighters had resigned in the prior two weeks — 11 overall have left since October — with two publicly blaming city insider politics and low pay. He explained that for every experienced firefighter lost, taxpayers incur $375,000 in costs due the needed additional recruitment and training.

“You’ll see people upset because those tax dollars are gone. That impact to the community and investment that is lost, it’s not coming back,” said Davis.

Negotiations between TPF and city management are entering their fifteenth month, with over two dozen previous meetings producing little result. Comparatively, negotiations with the Police Benevolence Association took just weeks to complete following the November 2022 election.

Davis announced that TPF will meet with a special magistrate on Wednesday March 27, at 9am at the Public Safety Complex.

Commissioner Proctor has called for a resolution to the protracted labor dispute. Earlier this month, he volunteered to mediate negotiations — just hours later, as reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, Mayor Dailey appeared to lob a thinly-veiled threat in a letter to the longest-serving County Commissioner and a former colleague.

“Based on your comments regarding fire service in unincorporated areas of Leon County, it may be time to reevaluate the City’s delivery of fire service to Non-City residents of Leon County,” wrote Dailey.

Mayor Dailey and top city administrators have publicly signaled their belief that the union should accept the city’s most recent offer in negotiations, which TPF representatives continue to point to as substandard and below both regional and the city’s own internal pay standards.

Tallahassee’s first Black woman mayor, Dot Inman-Johnson also attended in solidarity with the local firefighters. “I have been showing up at every commission meeting trying to put pressure on the three — and you know who the three are,” Inman-Johnson told the audience.

The statement was a reference to Mayor Dailey, Curtis Richardson, and Dianne Williams-Cox. Inman-Johnson is currently running to replace Richardson as City Commissioner for Seat 2.

City Commissioner Jack Porter voiced her support for the side of firefighters in their negotiations as well.

“I support you. This is wrong. It’s not fair. I apologize on behalf of the city for the way you’ve been treated,” said Porter, earning praise from Proctor.

“We never have to guess where Commissioner Porter stands. She’s always on the right side of these issues, and we appreciate her fighting for the right side of history,” said Proctor.

Porter did express confidence that a fair deal would ultimately be reached.

“When something is a priority, we find a way to make it work. And we will find a way to make this work.”

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