CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KCRG) - District 30 Senator Jeff Danielson said his decision to resign from both his Senate position and as a firefighter with the Cedar Falls Fire Department was the hardest of his life.
"It's incredibly sad that I have to make that decision in order to open up a new chapter,” he said. “It's not the two chapters that I wanted to close at this time in my life."
Danielson was in the midst of his 15th legislative session, serving Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Hudson, and his 25th year with the fire department and said he never wanted to stop doing both.
But he said he needs the income from the fire department to support his family and his role in the Senate, and he can no longer serve the fire department because of the way it has run the last few years.
"Every decision that's made about how to deliver public services has both a cost and a benefit,” Danielson said. “I've concluded that the leaders of Cedar Falls are not interested in that discussion."
Cedar Falls has replaced some of its full-time firefighters with public safety officers, who are essentially police officers cross-trained as firefighters. Danielson and other firefighters argued that training isn’t enough and that PSOs aren’t prepared to fight fires.
"If they are unaware of my constructive critique of the PSO model, they would have been living under a rock,” he said.
City of Cedar Falls leaders said Friday they were surprised by Danielson’s resignation and that they disagreed with his assessment of their preparedness.
"In 2018, we had over 6,000 hours of training between our public safety officers and our firefighters, and over 800 of those hours was fire suppression training alone,” Public Safety Director Jeff Olson said.
Olson said the PSO model gives taxpayers “more bang for their buck.”
"We've got more firefighters responding to fires now, and we also have more police officers on the street as a result of that model,” he said.
Olson did not give specifics on how much money that saves but said it’s worth the disruption it has caused, with several firefighters leaving the department over the last couple years.
Fire Chief John Bostwick admitted morale has taken a hit.
"We can continue to reach out to them and try to build a bridge and to build a more cohesive unit between police and fire,” he said.
But for Danielson, it’s too late.
"Is this really how you wanted the change process to happen?” he said. “I don't think it's been worth it, just in that aspect alone."
Danielson said he is also resigning from his job teaching at the University of Northern Iowa.
He said he will announce sometime next week his job plans for the future, but added he will not seek another elected position.
A special election will be held to fill Danielson’s seat in the Senate.