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Chief Jeff Swoboda & Chief Derek Bergsten

Featured Article

Fort Collins' First Responders

Expressing Gratitude for the Men and Women Who Dedicate Their Careers to Keeping Our City Safe

Having been ranked one of the best US cities to live in, repeatedly over the last few years, it’s clear that there is some magic to life in Fort Collins. If you’re already here, that’s probably not news though. There are numerous things that come together to make our home the wonderful place it is, some that are occasionally forgotten in the excitement of it all are the dedicated professionals who agree to shoulder the responsibility of looking after our communities’ safety and well being. Agreeing to work at protecting our homes, businesses, and families is no small undertaking and we are unfathomably grateful for the first responders who dedicate their careers to the task.

After last year’s record breaking fire season, residents of the Front Range are all-too-aware of the risk that can sometimes accompany our hot and dry summer climate, stepping up to that danger on behalf of Fort Collins and its surrounding communities is Poudre Fire Authority. With new chief Derek Bergsten at the helm of the department, learning about the people in his department and where they would like to see it grow are at the top of the to-do list. The most prevalent question he’s been asked so far is what his personal vision for the department is.

“I think the biggest thing right now is narrowing down that vision to make sure it’s attainable and make sure it’s beneficial to the organization and the community,” Bergsten told us of his first steps in assuming the role as Fire Chief and the strategic planning it will require.

Having moved here from Illinois with his family after accepting the Fire Chief position earlier this year, Bergsten has been getting acquainted with his new home. Keeping a list of suggested activities and restaurants and taking advantage of outdoor recreation opportunities as often as possible is a part of moving to Fort Collins for many people, for the new chief it’s a little bit deeper. It’s about getting to know and understand the community he’s serving.

“Everyone here is so nice and friendly,” Bergsten says of his new home, “it’s really a great community.”

Also striving to better understand his community, and the expectations they hold for him and his department, is Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda. In his three years serving as chief here, with the long term goal of helping Fort Collins to be one of, if not the safest city in the country, he sees his most important responsibility as listening. Describing the Fort Collins population as both educated and engaged, Swoboda knows that expectations are high.

“There are so many people that want to raise all boats and make sure that policing is intimately involved in that,” Swoboda says of the community's desire for improvement, “they want to make sure that their police department is trying to do better every day.”

Creating an advisory council and working to ensure all voices are heard is just one of many steps Swoboda is taking to make sure those expectations are well understood and consistently met. One of the latest initiatives made in an effort to improve how FCPD operates is the Mental Health Response Team, created with a realization that a typical police response may not be appropriate for all situations, even if they’re the only service people can call for help. 

“We recognize that there’s more that needs to be done in law enforcement,” Swoboda says of the new program, partnering with U.C. Health to have medical co-responders that are able to take the lead in responding to calls the concern mental health issues.

Swoboda, like Bergsten, also transferred here from Illinois to accept his position. Knowing each other in the past and catching up here is an experience both have enjoyed.

“He’s got a very similar mindset,” Swoboda says of working with his old colleague again and their common desire to listen to people's needs before acting “He’s a big picture guy and it’s just been great.

An important part of how first responder services get to know their communities and encourage them to participate in keeping our communities safe is through outreach events. We were able to attend one at Ridgeview Classical School where representatives from a multitude of first responder agencies gave demonstrations and talked about their jobs and how they serve our community with the students. It’s hard to say what the bigger hit was, the drones on display from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department or the police horses. Regardless, children and teachers alike were engaging with these dedicated professionals and getting to understand their role. Much more important than entertainment and education, events like these help to connect first responders to their community and create understanding that makes their jobs easier. Makes serving Fort Collins easier.

It’s apparent that work as a first responder can be highly stressful, so when you see that police officer, firefighter or paramedic out in town this month, be sure and take a moment to say ‘thank you.’ Perfect or not, they’re doing their best to help keep Fort Collins safe and that is something truly worth appreciating.

  • Chief Derek Bergsten
  • Chief Jeff Swoboda & Chief Derek Bergsten
  • Chief Jeff Swoboda
  • Chief Jeff Swoboda & Chief Derek Bergsten
  • First Responders Day At Ridgeview Classical School
  • First Responders Day At Ridgeview Classical School
  • First Responders Day At Ridgeview Classical School
  • First Responders Day At Ridgeview Classical School
  • First Responders Day At Ridgeview Classical School
  • First Responders Day At Ridgeview Classical School