Driven by a goal to become a shift supervisor, Paytee has made the trek to Valdosta Technical College (VTC) in Valdosta, Ga., twice a week over the past three years preparing for a position of leadership.
Cairo Fire Chief Don Towne is encouraging all employees to pursue post secondary education to raise professional standards locally.
“Education is the key to success and advancement. The citizens of Cairo pay for a professional fire department and that’s what I’m going to deliver to them,” Chief Towne said. “And one way to do that is furthering the education of employees.”
To encourage local firefighters to advance their education, the chief has allowed fire department employees to engage in two-hour study blocks during their regular shift.
“Paytee sets an example here to the younger firefighters that it can be done, and I expect it to be done. And he’s the first one to ‘come up the plate’ and hit it out of the park. So we’re very pleased with Mark.”
The fire science technology program is aimed at preparing fire personnel at all levels to become better officers and leaders. “My goal at the Cairo Fire Department is to have my own shift in order to teach the guys the things I’ve learned in the field,” Paytee said.
Currently working as an engineer (second in command of his shift), Paytee intends to become a lieutenant in charge of a four-man crew during the 24-hour duty period.
Through VTC coursework, he has gained expertise in fire fighting strategies and tactics, hazardous materials, safety and loss control, incident command, fire investigation, fire science supervision and leadership.
“Mark (Paytee) has come to me on several occasions and passed on some new ideas he has learned during his training. His next goal is to attain an associate degree, and we’re working with him now by giving him and others two hours a day for college level training. We have a room set up here at the fire department where it’s quiet and they can do their homework.”
Engineer Paytee says his immediate plans are to make a career with the Cairo Fire Department but acknowledges that “higher education can often open doors” and widen opportunities for advancement elsewhere. “I appreciate the chief (Towne) encouraging us to take classes and allowing us to study during our shift time,” added Paytee.
Towne reports that in today’s fire service, many fire departments will not consider an employee for promotion without a minimum of an associate degree.
“Paytee is an asset to this department and will continue to be an asset for years to come. He’s a true leader and knows his job very well. I’m proud to know him,” Towne remarked.