My name is George Richards, I am the current President of the Montana State Council of Professional Firefighters and the Firemen’s Association. I was elected to this position in September 2020. I am a professional firefighter with the rank of Engineer for the City of Billings. I have been employed in this position since 2006 and been in the fire field as a volunteer since 1995 and an ARFF firefighter from 2003-2006. I am married to a wonderful woman (Chandra) now of 16 years. We have 4 lovely daughters (MyKenzie, Niah, Brityn, & Jayda) and we love to travel, go camping, 4-wheeling, spend time with friends & family and cheer on our daughters in their sports.
I come from a strong union household. My father was a proud union member and even served as a union officer for many years throughout his career. He believed in the representation of unions and what they brought to the workforce. This instilled in me a deep passion and appreciation for the union and what it can symbolize and create in the lives of those in the work force.
I started as a shop steward shortly after being hired by the City and moved up thru the different E-board positions until reaching the position of Vice President of our Local 521. In 2012 I was elected to serve on the State Firemen’s Association as an advisory member to the pension board. In 2016 I was elected to the State Council and served as a District 1 Representative. This position allowed me the privilege to serve some of our smaller communities in MT and help ensure to them that their voices are heard and that they have a place within our state organizations. This is something I really enjoyed doing and it gave me the opportunity to travel and meet the members in a communal way that created trust, friendships and comradery amongst us. In 2018 I was elected to Vice President of the MSCOPFF and in 2019 I was elected to serve as Vice President of the Montana State Firemen’s Association, a role I felt gave me an opportunity to continue to build relations, improve member engagement and bring solidarity to our members.
I also had the honor of being involved with the long-term pursuit of the Firefighters Health & Safety Bill that was recently passed in the 2019 legislative year. This initiative was started many years ago by others that lead the way for us all and I was able to be a part of helping bring this long overdue bill to fruition.
Being a member and a leader in the MSCOPFF & MSFA has meant a great deal to me and I am proud to be a member of this establishment. It is my desire to serve our members equally by encouraging unity, integrity, ownership and an open platform where we all feel a sense of ownership and belonging.
District Vice President
I currently work for Billings Fire Department. I have been on the job for 5 years. I became passionate about being a member of Local 521 and served on the Executive board for 2 terms as Officer at large and Finance officer.
I am newly married to my wife Nicole and we are going through life in the most fun way!
I was born and raised in Texas. Full ride soccer scholarship to Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana where I played forward. I started my fire service career in my senior of college as a volunteer for Washington township. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management with a minor in business. I moved to Colorado after college to pursue a wildland firefighting position and also volunteered for Franktown Fire Protection District in Franktown, Colorado. I was there for 2 years before moving to Oregon to achieve an Associate degree in Fire Science.
I was a resident volunteer for West Valley Fire department in Willimina, Oregon for 2 years. I then took a position as an Incident Responder with the State of Oregon Department of Transportation. I was in this position for 3 years before moving to Billings, Montana.
I currently hold the District Vice President position representing District 1 for our great state of Montana. I represent Billings local 521, Lockwood local 3658, Miles City local 600 and Glendive local 2242.
I am humbled to have had the long journey to get to the dream I am living! I am appreciative of the chances I was given that led me to where I am. I am honored to being serving all of you!
I am currently a Firefighter with the Helena Fire Department. I also have the awesome opportunity to serve as the District 2 Representative for the Montana State Council of Professional Firefighters and the Montana State Firemen’s Association. In this role I hope to assist our already great Local leadership in advocating for and assisting our members.
I was born and raised in Bismarck, ND. So, I am a self-admitted transplant to Montana. But I moved here in 2007 to pursue my dream of becoming a firefighter. I served a Resident Firefighter with the Frenchtown Rural Fire District as well as Helicopter Crewmember with the Montana DNRC. My first job as a career firefighter was with the Anaconda Fire Department. It was here where I learned what it really meant to be a Union member. I was finally hired at the Helena Fire Department in 2013. I currently serve on the executive board of the Local, as District 2 Representative for the state organizations, and as a Lobbyist at the Capitol for all Montana firefighters.
It is my privilege to work on behalf of firefighters in Montana. I find a great deal of purpose advocating for our defined benefit pension system, collective bargaining rights, and helping our members work through issues at the local, state, and national level.
Currently, I work as a Battalion Chief/ Paramedic with Missoula Rural Fire District (MRFD). I have been with MRFD for a total of 25 years (18 career/ 7 volunteer). I am married to my best friend (Shelly) and have 2 awesome boys (Matthew and Andrew). We currently reside in Stevensville, MT.
Early on in my involvement with Local 2457, Missoula Rural Firefighters, I was elected as the Treasurer in 2003 and retained that position for 7 years. In 2013, I was elected to the Montana State Firemen’s Association as a Pension Advisory Board member to District 3. 2 years later at the MSFA Whitefish Convention, I was elected to be the Secretary/ Treasurer, the position in which I currently serve.
When I was hired with MRFD, we were in the Public Employee’s Retirement System (PERS) retirement system as we are a Fire District. It was always concerning to me and several other agencies/ districts that we were in a separate pension system from the other municipal fire departments. In 2007, I advocated for the legislation that would allow fire districts into the Firefighter’s Unified Retirement System (FURS). We were successful during the 2007 Legislative Session in allowing fire districts and MT Air National Guard into FURS (MCA 19-13-210 (3) (a)). This was a pivotal point in my in career when I became more involved in the issues that affect Firefighters in Montana and throughout the IAFF.
Since my election to the Executive Board of the MSFA, I have fought tirelessly for our Members and their families. I have made it a point to enhance and continue to grow the benefits to our MSFA members. Several items I have worked to enhance in the Secretary/ Treasurer’s office have been: an approach to be more digital in all communication and financial aspects, education of members and their families to the benefits of the MSFA, a continued transparency of the financial standings with members, and a better accountability for the members’ life insurance. I have also been heavily involved in the maintenance and governing of the MSFA’s Helena House.
I work alongside a dedicated and talented Board of individuals in the MSFA and share a great relationship with my counterpart in the MSCOPFF. We have not only brought alignment to the organizations since my tenure began, but we have truly connected with each other as professional representatives and as friends. I also serve as a member of the MSFA Honor Guard.
I will always strive to bring the best benefits to our Members and their families and will continue to fight hard for the protection and growth of the FURS pension.
Thank you for allowing me to serve for the last 5 years as your Secretary/ Treasurer. I will commit to continuing to serve you to the best of my abilities throughout my time on this Executive Board.
I grew up in a very Pro-Union household in Anaconda. There I learned the lessons of hard work and dedication to family and job. Having parents and grandparents involved with Unions and Unionism developed in me a strong understanding of the accomplishments we can achieve when we work together. Growing up in Anaconda in the 70’s and 80’s did not come without strife; the Anaconda Company was a hard-nosed company and the Labor force had to fight for small increases in benefits…nickels. It was in moments around the kitchen table, listening to my parents talk about the stress it brought, I realized something very important. They taught me, that there was hope, hope that the Union was going to negotiate a better contract, and our family would be better off. My parents knew, it was in their hearts; because we were a UNION family, things would be ok.
I went to college at Montana Tech to study Chemistry. It was a fantastic career path, but I knew in my heart that there was something different for me. My summers were spent in the trees, working with the Department of State Lands and then with the Forest Service. There was my passion…fire! A position opened at the Anaconda Fire Department in 1995, and I applied. I have been on the job for 26 years and can honestly say I chose correctly. In those days, Unionism wasn’t much of a choice, YOU WERE UNION, but I knew from the beginning that it was in my heart. Early in my career I was elected to the Secretary/Treasurer position and held that for many years. Most recently, I served as my Local President. I currently hold the rank of Captain.
I am married to Melani and we have been together for 11 years. We have 5 kids, Jay, Quinn, Tommi, Madison and Cara. A heart felt thank you to them, because if I didn’t have that security at home, I would not be able to do this job.
I was first elected to Executive board as the AT-Large rep. for the MSFA. It is here where I learned in detail about our pension, the Pension Board and the strength we have in the MSFA. I was part of the team that built the new dual representation model for the MSCOPFF and MSFA. The next year I was elected as the District Vice President for the MSCOPFF and Representative for MSFA. It is our goal to offer as many services as possible, in a responsible fiscal manner.
Fire Fighting and Unionism is a philosophy of service that resonates to my core. It has been a calling for me and I continue to love all aspects of the work. Local autonomy is the cornerstone of our Union, it’s what sets us apart from the rest and will continue to lead us into the future. Because of that belief, I see myself as a servant to YOU the membership and set the Local as my priority.
I am so very honored to serve you and look forward to our new and continued relationships.
Jason Robert Baker, 45, died February 20, 2019 in Great Falls after a two-year battle with lung cancer.
Baker was born Sept. 9, 1973, the second eldest of four siblings. He graduated from Fort Benton High School in 1992.
Jason met his future wife, Jill, in middle school, and they always enjoyed each other’s company. He helped her move into the dorms at the University of Montana, and by the end of their freshman year, they were dating. Jason and Jill were married 23 years.
Jason loved being a father to daughter, Peyton and son, Porter. He wanted to be involved with everything they did while avoiding helicopter parenting. Supportive and loving, he showed up for concerts, cross-country meets and football games. He instilled in them generosity and the value of hard work. He also made sure they had practical skills. He wanted them to be competent adults, and when he knew how limited his time would be, to be able to do things without him.
Jason began his firefighting career as a wildland firefighter in the Seeley Lake area during a summer break from the University of Montana. He became a volunteer firefighter and then found a job with the Great Falls Fire Department in 2000. The fire station became his second home, and the people he worked with his second family.
Baker worked for more than a decade to help firefighters statewide achieve presumptive health and safety coverage so generations of first responders tagged with lung disease and other serious work-related health conditions would have better odds at living a normal life. It’s a fight that continues.
Jason had to retire from the GFFD in December 2017, and he embraced his new role. He became a taxi service for his children, made his family dinner and helped his kids with their homework.
Jason had a gift for storytelling, often with embellishment to make the stories especially good. He had a contagious smile and ease making new friends. He was a prolific jokester. Some of his practical jokes succeeded and some failed, but they were always done in fun.
Jason had a natural affinity for teenagers and an ability to bring those on the end into the fold. He volunteered as a co-leader for the Christ United Methodist Church youth group, was a counselor for Methodist camp on Flathead Lake, coached Salvation Army flag football and Boys and Girls Club football teams and connected one-on-one as a counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp in Montana. He also organized for many years the local firefighters’ MDA boot drive. He helped launch the coats-for-kids and helped with many other charitable projects through the firefighters’ union. He had a generous heart and was the kind of guy who would give others the shirt off his back.
Jason was big on second chances. He had high expectations for people and wanted them to be their best selves, but he was forgiving, too. He didn’t give up on people, and that’s part of why they loved him.
Even before his diagnosis, Jason made the most of his time, treasuring moments with family and friends and going on adventures. He went to concerts, cheered on his sports teams (Chicago Bears, Washington Capitals and New York Yankees) at their games and rode motorcycles for fun, for camaraderie and for “wind therapy.” One of his special motorcycle trips was a ride with other Montana firefighters to New York City for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Jason would have liked to have gone to Ireland or Boston for St. Patrick’s Day, which he often celebrated in Butte and always made a grand occasion with the parade and Guinness at the pub. He had a kilt and wasn’t afraid to wear it, even if it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day. He even issued the credible threat that he’d pick Peyton up from school in his kilt.
Jason didn’t die with regrets because he said what needed to be said and lived honestly. He didn’t have unfinished business and told a nurse who asked him what he wanted to have done, “I’ve done it.” He only held on as long as he did to be with his loved ones.
During his last two years, Jason said that as a firefighter one of the strengths he developed is being able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. He knew courage can look like running into a burning building, but it also can look like getting up every day and fighting cancer. Courage can be continuing treatments that are painful and sickening. Courage can be taking another ride on the motorcycle or grilling dinner for your kids when all you want to do is collapse.
About every possible side effect of his treatments seemed to happen to Jason, which was hard on his body and spirit. Still, he made the most of each good day he had. Before leaving the hospital for hospice, Jason had a surge of energy. He started telling stories to the dozen people gathered in his room and soon they were rolling with laughter. Moments like that were where he thrived. His joy was in making other happy and hearing them laugh.
Jason was proceeded in death by his father, Robert of Great Falls, and uncle, Larry Rowland of Michigan. He is survived by his wife; Jill, their children, Peyton and Porter; mother, Jolene Dahlstrom in Michigan; stepmother, Lois Baker of Great Falls; father-in-law, Richard Bitz and step-mother-in-law Vicki of Missoula; mother-in-law, Julia Bitz of Fort Benton; sister, Stacy Arndt with Emily and Ashton of Colorado; sister, Morgan (Kyle) Halseth, with Addison and Avery of Helena; sister Heather Baker of Texas with her son, Rob; brothers-in-law Nick, (Kristin) Bitz with Noah, Izaak, Tyler, Elijah and Jakob of Wisconsin and Michael (Abigail) Bitz with Kinsey, Kera and Jacob of South Carolina; aunts, Mary Vrablick of California, Janet Dublis of Maine, and Sandy Rowland of Michigan; uncles, Mark (Janice) Chandler of New York, and Dennis Marriage of Cut Bank; cousins, Paul and Evelyn DaSilva of New York, as well as numerous cousins and other relatives in Montana, New York, Michigan, Maine, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and other parts of the U.S. and Australia.