Q & A with Kevin Gerrity

What, in your professional and personal experiences, distinguishes you from your opponents and makes you the best candidate for Fire Commissioner?

I am a lifelong fire service professional. I first entered the US Air Force Fire Training School in 1975. I spent 23 years as a firefighter in Cleveland, including the last 6 1/2 years of my career as the Fire Chief for one of America’s major cities. I have served on the Golden Gate and Greater Naples Fire Commissions since 2009.

What are the top issues and/or unique challenges facing this district? If elected, what specific actions would you propose to address these issues/challenges?

Dealing with growth is the most difficult challenge facing the district. The district pays lip service to strategic planning, but continues to increase operations without a plan and with no regard for financial impact. It is common at meetings for the commission to approve significant expenditures, even when the career professionals in the district urge restraint and caution. Rather than adopting a strategic plan that responsibly manages growth, the commission reacts (and overreacts) to whims.

Extreme weather and sea level rise are increasing the need for disaster response services while at the same time adding to the risks first responders face. How should this be addressed? What, if any, additional funding is needed?

The Greater Naples Fire District encompasses one of the most significant urban- wildland interface areas in the United States. As our district continues to grow, this problem will only be exacerbated. As the largest independent fire district in Florida, we need to build relationships with local, county, state and federal partners to develop a plan for shared responsibilities in this interface area.

How will your district maintain high quality service 24/7 within proposed funding levels for 2023 and beyond?

They are doing so by proposing reserve spending, which I adamantly oppose during these financial times. The district has received significant budget increases over recent years, and should be restricting itself to live within current fiscal constraints and increasing reserves for the inevitable rainy day. Some within the district are pushing for a tax increase. I am opposed to any millage increase

Why Kevin – A Lesson in Spending

Local taxpayers need to be aware of an effort being undertaken to raise your fire taxes!

Commissioners in the Greater Naples Fire District recently approved a motion to place a significant tax increase on the ballot. I was the lone dissenting vote. Thanks to push back from citizens, as Chairman of the Commission, I was able to bring the matter up for reconsideration, at which time the initiative was narrowly defeated by a 3-2 vote.  Now there is an effort underway to defeat me in the November election and elect a candidate who has promised to support the tax increase effort.

The Greater Naples Fire District is an independent governing agency that provides fire protection and rescue services to about half of Collier County.  There is a board of five elected commissioners that sets policy for the district.  Note that the taxes are for fire protection and rescue services only. Collier EMS is a separate entity that receives its funding through taxes and fees for services.

The Greater Naples Fire District receives its funding through Ad Valorem taxes on property in its borders, currently capped by law at 1.5 mils. The proposed effort was to increase the tax cap to 2.0 mils. Tax bills and the cost of the proposed increase for typical homes are as follows:


$300,000-                  $450                       $600

$400,000-                  $600                       $800

$500,000-                  $750                     $ 1,000

$600,000-                  $900                     $1,200

As shown below, the fire district has received large revenue increases over the years, mainly due to new construction and the increasing values of properties within the district. In fact, revenue through taxes has basically doubled since 2016! The 2022-23 budget cycle is even better as the fire district is receiving a whopping 19.26% increase in ad Valorem revenue! That translates to nearly $7,000,000 in additional revenue to the district, just this year alone!

The fire district does not have a revenue, problem, it has a spending problem. Current commissioners have repeatedly voted to increase operating expenses, even when the Fire Chief has advised against doing so. I am frequently the lone dissenting vote on the board when it comes to unnecessary spending. Despite record revenue increases, the district is needlessly spending money from reserves. This is simply bad public policy. Please stand with me and demand accountability and efficiency from your fire district.

Consolidating Services Saves Taxpayers

Consolidation is More Cost-Effective and Efficient than Duplication

It is only common sense that where redundancy exists in the administrations, it must be eliminated.

The Greater Naples Fire District, along with our neighboring North Collier Fire District encompass a huge geographic area. Together we provide fire rescue services to the vast majority of the population of Collier County.

While there are some differences between the two districts, the similarities between the two fire rescue departments vastly outweigh the disparate characteristics. Moreover, the first responder units from the two agencies work hand in hand in the field to provide seamless integration of emergency operations on a daily basis.

It is only common sense that where redundancy exists in the administrations, it must be eliminated.  Three areas that are long overdue for consolidation between the departments are training, fleet maintenance and fire prevention. We must work to foster a spirit of cooperation between these two important fire rescue agencies.

Continuing Training Enhances Service

Training is the Key to a Successful Fire Agency

The operations of a fire rescue agency are highly complex. Structure fires, motor vehicle and boating accidents, drownings, medical emergencies, HAZMAT incidents, aircraft crashes, entrapments, confined space and trench rescue, high angle rescue, wildfires, industrial accidents, active shooters, mass casualty incidents, the list is nearly endless. Preparing firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) and Paramedics to safely and effectively mitigate these emergencies takes training, and a lot of it. And training is costly.

Any successful fire rescue training program must have three key components:

  1. Qualified and competent instructors.
  2. A centralized facility that provides sufficient classrooms, office spaces, auditoriums, drill grounds, training tower, fire simulators and support functions suitable to train the personnel of a modern, all-hazards response agencies.
  3. A commitment from the agency and the community to provide funding, logistics and manpower to the training program.

The Greater Naples Fire Rescue District has acquired land near I-75 and Davis Boulevard and is beginning the process to develop a training and maintenance facility on the site.

Response Times Critical in Saving Lives

Response Time is Critical

Response time is a crucial predictor of the eventual success of a responding agency to mitigate loss of life, serious injury, fire losses, and damage to the environment that is caused during emergencies. The sooner highly trained, well-equipped first responders can arrive on scene, the easier it is to control emergencies which, by their very nature, are fast moving, rapidly developing incidents.

Key Elements

Two key emergencies to which fire rescue agencies routinely respond are cardiac arrests (heart attacks) and fires in their beginning (incipient) stage. It is of utmost importance to ensure the arrival of a properly equipped first responder unit to these emergencies within six (6) minutes. This is the critical time frame at which brain damage begins to occur during cardiac arrest, and incipient stage fires spread beyond the room in which they originate. This is an important benchmark by which we can judge the effectiveness of a fire rescue agency- How much of the area to which an agency responds can the first due unit arrive within six (6) minutes?

  By employing this six-minute standard, we can objectively determine how many and where fire stations should be located within our district. One of our main goals should be to locate fire stations to reach the maximum amount of our population within a six (6) minute response time. As our population grows, new stations should be brought on line to achieve this objective.