It is with great appreciation that the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) thanks former Association of Conservationist Employees (ACE) President Jim Kastner for his service on the CSLEA Board of Directors.
After two and a-half years of leading the way for workers' rights for California Conservation Corps (CCC) conservationists and state workers who are a part of Bargaining Unit 7, Kastner is retiring from his role as ACE president and CSLEA Board member. He is also retiring from the CCC after 32 years of service.
"Jim has served his role with passion and compassion," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "His commitment to the State of California as a conservationist, to his CCC colleagues, to the ACE board and the CSLEA board has been second to none."
"The conservationists are the mentors, the teachers, the supervisors, the fire crew supervisors of the young people who work in the conservation corps," said Kastner. "Those are the folks I represented, with honor, while president of ACE and a CSLEA board member. "
Kastner started his CCC career in the late 1970's when CCC was just getting started. "I probably saw more of California than most people who have lived here all their lives, in my first year in the Corps," said Kastner.
"As we say thank you to Jim for his work on our board and for leading our ACE affiliate, we also welcome former ACE Vice President Shawn Fry to his new role as president of ACE," said Barcelona. "Shawn originally got involved with ACE and CSLEA because he didn't think people were doing anything for him and wanted to know where his money was going. He has learned a lot about the role of collective bargaining, the need for legal representation and the need for a strong, working relationship with state lawmakers and the governor. Together, we're a strong voice and can be heard."
Fry joined the CCC as a corps member in September 1980 and now 34 years later, just as Kastner did, he is leading young people along the very path he started out on.
"CCC was my calling. It has made me a better man. As a conservationist, my contact with young corps members has made me a better man," said Fry. "Seeing corps members succeed is the best part of my job. Watching them succeed in their fire careers is beyond rewarding." Fry estimates more than 40 corps members that he has supervised have moved on to become firefighters with other agencies. Other corps members have become CCC conservationists.
As president of ACE, Fry hopes to educate conservationists about the importance of labor associations. "Public safety is constantly being attacked," said Fry. "And while you're on the front lines of public safety, fighting a fire, you need someone on the front lines of politics, fighting for you, your rights, your future and that's what associations do and it takes money to do it. That's what I tell other conservationists."
Fry said he will always lead by example and practice what he preaches, and with no plans to retire anytime soon, he is likely to be "leading" and "preaching" for years to come.