Michigan Association of Fire Fighters

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

Novi Paid-on-Call Fire Lieutenant Mark Pehrson was honored with the 2020 Richard C. Heins Outstanding Leadership Award for protecting Paid-on-Call positions while greatly improving MAFF Union members’ wages and benefits throughout his career.

Novi Paid-on-Call Fire Lt. Mark Pehrson was awarded the 2020 Richard C. Heins Outstanding Leadership Award.

Pehrson received the award at the MAP Holiday Open House in December 2021 since the 2020 Open House was canceled due to pandemic-related protocols. He has served as MAFF Local Union President for the past 16 years, successfully negotiating several Novi Paid-on-Call contracts, including the group’s current six-year bargaining agreement.

“As you know Mark has been the President of the Novi Paid-on-Call Firefighters Union for a number of years. He continues to be re-elected by the Members due to his outstanding leadership qualities as Union President,” wrote MAFF Labor Relations Specialist Joe O’Connor in his letter of recommendation for the award. “Mark has been instrumental in negotiating the last three contracts (that I am personally aware of), the last being a six-year contract with increases each year. He keeps the local Members well informed on the day-to-day operation and has the demeanor needed when dealing with the Employer.”

Pehrson approaches every concern with the Employer armed with well-documented facts supporting the Union’s position. His preparedness combined with treating others with respect often resolves issues by changing the perspective of the Employer, O’Connor said.

“He was thorough, brought in good data when he came to the table,” O’Connor said. “The local City Council is very supportive of Paid-on-Call and were able to draft in bonuses for Firefighters who would work a certain number of hours. The more they worked, the higher the bonuses. Plus, if they met the requirement of their mandatory shift, they got a bonus for that. They did this because of a joint effort of four people from Paid-on-Call, but Mark took the lead on the information coming from Paid-on-Call.”

His leadership abilities are not only displayed in the roles he takes on within his department, but by the way he handles issues of concern.

“He just has an easygoing demeanor, not wild or unreasonable. He presents his side of the case very well with documented facts that are hard to dispute,” O’Connor said. “He already has facts to cover any argument he has with them as to why the decision should be his way. He can provide all kinds of data on why things are the way they are or should be that way.”

Pehrson said he believes the top three attributes of a good leader are: “Being a good listener, a communicator, and being able to solve problems. Take the emotion out of it and find the answer rather than worry about the emotions.”

“He’s respected by not only his Members, but the Employer, Mayor, City Council, and the community,” said MAFF Executive Director Fred Timpner. “He has been an outstanding Steward and President of the local. He has been in the forefront of the fight to improve wages and benefits, but also has resisted the takeover of their jobs by the full-time Firefighters. He has guided his association through those times successfully, by staying on alert to quash attempts by full-time Firefighters to encroach upon Paid-on-Call jobs.”

Photo By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor                       MAFF Executive Director Fred Timpner presents Novi Paid-on-Call Fire Lt. Mark Pehrson the 2020 Richard C. Heins Outstanding Leadership Award.

While Pehrson recently stepped down as Local President for personal reasons, this dedicated Steward remains very active in the Union while continuing to serve his community as a Paid-on-Call Firefighter for the past 26 years.

“He gets called non-stop with work-related and union-related issues. He’s done fundraisers and training,” O’Connor said. “He’s just an all-around general good employee and a good executive of the Local Board. He does all the scheduling for Paid-on-Call, which is quite a nightmare as he’s trying to schedule 60 different people.”

“It was unexpected and I was very proud,” Pehrson said. “I don’t do it for the recognition. I do it for the membership. It’s just nice to know that people look at you in that light.”