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Ruminations

Ten percent of the members of the Milford Fire Department have some form of cancer. "Which is far too much," Fire Chief Bill Toohey told those attending this year's Firefighters Memorial Sunday.

He noted people might associate lung cancer with firefighters, because of the smoke involved in firefighting. Not so, Toohey said. The use of breathing apparatus has lessened that impact.

Since more materials are made out of plastics today, they produce chemical emissions that can coat firefighters' gear, which now need to be washed thoroughly after each event, Toohey explained. Now, the cancers affect everything from the brain to gastrointestinal tracts, he said.

Patrick Evans, president of the local firefighters union, publicly thanked the Board of Selectmen at the memorial for going what he termed above and beyond the letter of the law to support the Fire Department.

The board has voted to have the Town pay for any medical costs the firefighters incur beyond what their medical insurance covers. "It's the right thing to do," one of the selectmen told me.

I hope you agree with that sentiment. These folks spend their time saving lives and the least we can do is help them when their own health is jeopardized.

Speaking of the selectmen, it's interesting to see the impact the newest member is having on the board. With Mike Walsh aboard, all three selectmen now have business-focused backgrounds – Will Kingkade working for the T (Yes, that's a business.), Bill Buckley for Bose and Walsh for Imperial Cars.

So, it's not surprising to hear them talk about "customer service" when they speak about town government. Buckley and Walsh, in particular, speak about taxpayers being the Town's customers and wanting them to have a good customer experience.

Walsh recently brought up the issue in the context of discussing enforcement of the town's by-laws relating to signs. He noted that a woman spoke at the Annual Town Meeting about the negative impact the year-old zoning change regarding signs has had on cultural organizations in town because they can no longer advertise their events. Walsh wanted to meet with her personally to review what these organizations can and cannot do and how to help them.

That's a far cry from the impersonal government you see in other places. And, fortunately, you can see it exhibited in many of the town government departments today.

In 1996, Frederick Reichheld wrote a landmark book, The Loyalty Effect, which became the business bible for how companies can use excellent customer service to build their businesses. One of the things I remember from it is that people who have a bad experience with a business will tell everyone not to buy from it. Those who have a good experience will tell a few people about it, but heartily recommend that business.

In politics, I guess that translates into good constituent service – which, in turn, turns into votes.

No matter what the reason, I'll take the good customer service. I feel I've earned it for paying my property taxes.




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