Episode 275 – Emily Bartlett

Emily is an Accountant & Volunteer Firefighter

Born and raised in the City of Mason, Emily has spent her whole life devoting herself to the community. Following high school, she went to Michigan State University where she was a member of the Division 1 Rowing team and traveled the Country. After rowing, she decided to pursue the challenge of her first Ironman. After completing the Ironman, she wanted to begin giving back to the community that gave so much in return by joining the Mason Volunteer Fire Department.

Emily Bartlett talks about being a volunteer firefighter in her hometown of Mason, Michigan and how it affects her job as an accountant for the city. She also talks about the family culture at her office that provides her the support system to continue her volunteering firefighting!

Episode Highlights

Getting into firefighting
Saving a dog from a fire
How being a firefighter helps with her job as an accountant for the city
The family culture and support system at her office
How her supervisor sets the culture at the office

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Emily’s Pictures

(click to enlarge)

Emily’s Fiance; Kevin, and her pooch Brody

A prescribed burn that Emily attended for training. she is on the far left

The annual pancake breakfast. A few family friends who want to grow up to be just like Emily, a firefighter.

An annual walk held in Emily’s town to help those fighting cancer

Emily’s links

  • Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close

    Welcome to Episode 275 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I’m interviewing a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and.” You’re an accountant “and” something else. You’re a lawyer “and” something else. Those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re in the office.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know my book’s being published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it. And this book will really help spread that message to everyone around you.

    Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Emily Bartlett. She’s an Accountant with the City of Mason, Michigan. And now, she’s with me here today. Emily, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Emily: Yeah. Hi, John. How are you?

    John: I’m doing awesome. I’m so excited to have you on and my first firefighter, so I’m pretty jacked up about it to be honest. Before we get into that, I have my 17 rapid-fire questions that I like to run everybody through. Sometimes, I mix them up. I’ll start you out with an easy one here. Favorite color?

    Emily: Purple or orange. It can never just die.

    John: Okay. All right. I’ll let it go. How about a least favorite color?

    Emily: Gray.

    John: Gray. Yeah.

    Emily: It’s an ugly color.

    John: Right. I figured it would’ve been maize and blue, but gray works.

    Emily: Pretty close.

    John: Pretty close. If you put those two together, I think it’s gray.

    Emily: It’s green. If you put them together, it’s green, Michigan State. Go green.

    John: There you go. How about pens or pencils?

    Emily: Pencils. Mechanical pencils to be exact.

    John: Okay. Nice. Yeah. I don’t get that very often. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?

    Emily: Sudoku.

    John: Nice. Okay. How about Kindle or real books?

    Emily: Real book for sure. It’s the only way to do it.

    John: Right. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Emily: I don’t really have one. It always changes. It depends on how I’m feeling.

    John: Okay. No, no. I hear you. It’s more of the movie itself. I got you. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Emily: Night owl. I will stay up until 3:00 a.m. if I have to.

    John: Okay. There you go. How about a favorite Disney character?

    Emily: Probably Mulan?

    John: Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely.

    Emily: I’ve got to love those strong female characters.

    John: Right. Exactly. Totally. How about a favorite number?

    Emily: 823. It’s my fire number.

    John: Hot or cold?

    Emily: Cold. You can always put more clothes on if you need to.

    John: Fair enough. I got you. All right. Or a blanket on top of all that, right?

    John: Right.

    Emily: Diamonds. A girl’s got to love her bling.

    John: Right. Yeah. I heard the twinkle in your eye as you said that. With the fire trucks, red or this neon yellow green, whatever it is?

    Emily: Red is the only way to go.

    John: Right. I don’t know. When I see the other ones, I’m like, “Is that a real one,” or, “What’s going on here?” Maybe at night, it glows in the dark. I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to.

    Emily: We have black ones near in our area but, yeah, red all the way.

    John: Interesting. Interesting. All right. Yeah. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Emily: Neither. I’ve never been able to get to them.

    John: Okay. I hear you.

    Emily: I fall asleep.

    John: Right. All right. On your computer, a PC or a Mac?

    Emily: I like both, but if I had to choose, probably a Mac.

    John: Wow, fancy. Yeah. I don’t know how they work so good for you. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Emily: A chocolate chip cookie dough.

    John: Ooh, solid answer. I’m going to go get some right now, I think. I’ll be right back. No, no. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Emily: I have to say my dog buddy. He’s a sweetheart. He’s a puppy dog. He’s a good boy.

    John: Awesome. What kind of dog is he?

    Emily: Golden Retriever.

    John: Oh, wow. There you go.

    Emily: I love the hair but hate the hair.

    John: Right. On the dog, great. Shedding, not so much.

    Emily: Not so great. Yeah.

    John: Yeah. That’s awesome. Very cool, very cool. I mean firefighting, is that something that you just wake up one day and decide to do? How did you get into that?

    Emily: We had a really big fire right in our downtown, Mason, where we live. It was a couple of years ago. It was on Father’s day. I walked out of the ice cream parlor with my fresh ice cream cone and I saw this huge fire off to my right. And I said, “Holy Moly, I’ve got to help out.” Actually, a couple of months later, I asked someone at my church. I said, “How do you get involved in that,” and just kind of started from there.

    John: That’s powerful. I mean that’s big because I mean some people would look at it and be like, “Well, whatever. They got people to do this.” But you were like, “No, I’m jumping in. I want to be one of the ones that helps out with this.”

    Emily: You’d have to know our community.

    John: That’s pretty awesome. Were you born and raised in Mason?

    Emily: Yes. Born and raised right here.

    John: Oh, good for you. Good for you. That’s awesome. And then went to Michigan State just up the road. That’s really cool. I guess is there an experience that you’ve had since joining the fire department that has a more rewarding story or something exciting that’s gone on that is something where people would be like, “What? No way.”

    Emily: I kind of geek out over it, but to others, they don’t always geek out. It’s more or less just being a firefighter here in my hometown. I know the people who I respond to. I know their houses. I drive by them. When they get in car accidents, it’s someone I know, which is very rewarding and also kind of rough at the same time. We had a big house fire. That was a couple of years ago now. We were the first ones into the house. We found a German Shepherd dog. He was freaking out and we’re able to get him out okay. That was kind of a rewarding experience. Then it’s always nice if you can save things that are people’s keepsakes. Yeah, but we’ve had all kinds of accidents and house fires and car fires.

    John: I can only imagine. Yeah. Especially like you said, it’s not a big city. Everyone knows everyone. So it’s somebody’s cousin or aunt and uncle or whatever. Yeah. That’s really, really tricky for sure. And this is a volunteer fire department, which has to add a new layer to it that’s a little bit different than people that do it as their career.

    Emily: Yeah. It does. I mean we had a house fire on Christmas Day. It was about 5:30 at night. I actually knew the people who had the house fire. They gave me a huge hug and said, “Thank you so much for coming out.” I said, “Next time, if you could just make it before I eat a piece of pie.”

    John: Right. Exactly. That wasn’t part of the training. Like eat a slice of pumpkin pie and then, “Okay. Now, we’ve got to go.” “Wait, what?” Yeah. That’s cool because, yeah, I mean whether you’re working or you’re with your family or you’re on the weekend or whatever it is, you’re on holiday when that alert comes through, yeah, it’s go time.

    Emily: One time, we had one of our firefighters show up wearing his — one shoe was his wife’s and the other shoe was his daughter’s. He told his kids to put the shoes away in the closet and got a call in the middle of the night. They were all just thrown in there, so he just grabbed two that he could find.

    John: That’s hilarious. That’s super awesome. Kudos to you and everyone else. I mean I grew up in a small town myself. It was a mix of mostly volunteer firefighters and the EMTs and stuff. Yeah. I mean it’s a different level of stuff there. The commitment is impressive. So kudos to that. Do you feel like any of that gives you a skill that you bring to the office?

    Emily: Absolutely. Being an accountant here with the city, I cover a lot of different things. Obviously, when we respond to fires, anything within the city is paid for by their taxes, but anything out in the townships, we cover three townships really. And we always have to bill for those. So when I have to call someone who may be struggling financially and they have to pay a bill for the city, I can start out the conversation with, “Are you okay? I know your vehicle was totaled. Are your kids okay?” It comes across a little bit better than calling as “the city.” I’ve seen them do just pay the whole amount or payment plans, which we can do regardless, but it sets the tone.

    John: Totally. That’s so much nicer to create that relationship from the beginning as caring and maybe you were there even. So then they know that you’re in it with them and that you care about them as a whole person and everything in this situation, not just the city getting their money type of an angle, which I mean I guess relates to this message of your employers and those around us caring about you as a firefighter as well as an accountant, which just makes you feel just so much better about it. That’s actually super unique because it’s pretty rare that others would have that ability to be able to do that just because of their experience. Clearly, this is something that you talk about at work. Are you the only one that’s involved in this?

    Emily: Kind of a little bit. Within our city organization, there’s five of us on the Fire Department who are also in other roles around the city. One of my actual co-workers in the same department as mine, I’m actually on the department with her son, she always says, “Be safe. Be careful.” She made a comment to me one day. She’s like, “It’s almost like I’m saying it to my son because I know you’re going out there with him.”

    So it creates a sense of unity, a sense of family a little bit, that they understand that it’s a passion of mine and they’re willing to step up and make the sacrifice for me. I don’t have any kids. They step up for me in the regard of Fire Department stuff and if something happens with their kids, it’s vice versa. We’re a very understanding department which is nice and city as whole.

    John: Yeah. No, that is cool because, yeah, I mean I guess when you get the alert and you’re like, “Hey, I’ve got to go,” then there’s other people that need to pick up maybe a little bit of the work that needs to be done or whatever. It’s definitely a group effort.

    Emily: It’s not just our Finance Department necessarily. It’s also our DPW Department. We have our Building Maintenance Department. They run as well. So there’s multiple people. Our city manager, she likes to have a sense of — she even responds out to some of the calls because to her, those are her neighbors, people she wants to help.

    John: The empathy there is so much greater than just anyone else. That’s impressive, yeah, because I mean they’re doing some community service project once every six months or whatever, go and help build a home for Habitat for Humanity or something, which is great. But when you’re living and breathing it literally 24/7, you could get that alert. That’s awesome. And it’s awesome that your supervisor is on board with that and doing it as well, which really creates that environment where it has to make you feel more okay with it, I guess or less guilty. I don’t know what the word is. How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to set that tone at the top and create that environment versus how much is it on just you to be like, “Hey, you know what? This is what I love to do and I’m going to do it.”

    Emily: I think it’s a little bit of both. But I think it stemmed from the top down. We have a city manager. She’s amazing. And she sets the tone of, “You guys is family and volunteering for the community is what’s important.” She encourages people to get out and be active in the community. It helps everybody else who are actually employees. It gives them the — I guess they’re more comfortable to speak up about what they care about or what their end is necessarily.

    John: Yeah. Because I mean it does make it a lot easier when you’re seeing it acted out in front of you from people above you because then, you’d have to be the biggest hypocrite on the planet to do one thing and then call people out for something different. And I would also imagine that the people that you are on the Fire Department with, you have maybe a unique relationship with them versus maybe everyone else type of a thing.

    Emily: Absolutely.

    John: Yeah. How does that play out in the day-to-day work?

    Emily: Well, with us being all volunteers, we all go our separate ways outside of the Fire Department. I mean within the department and training, it’s a family. It’s a big sacrifice on all the other families and spouses and children. So we get together and do some group activities with our families. I mean as far as with the Fire Department, you see things that sometimes no one else is ever going to see there in life. Coping with that, it’s talking about what’s going on in your life. And it helps amongst other firefighters but also within our actual department here. As soon as I get back from a call, if they see me, “Are you okay? Was everyone all right?” They genuinely care, which is really nice.

    John: Right. Instead of, “Hey, there’s this stack of work you’ve got to get to right now.”

    Emily: Yeah. My job, it’s easy. Most people are like, “Well, fighting fires, it’s got to be hard job.” Well, my coworkers, my support system, my family, they make it easy.

    John: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe have a passion that they think has nothing to do with their career or no one’s going to care about it?

    Emily: Yeah. Just speak up. It’s what makes you unique, what makes you special. You can accomplish great things when you’re yourself.

    John: Yeah, just share it, right? I found that most of the time, the concern over how people are going to react is 99.9% in our own heads. Then once you do share it, people are behind you or think it’s cool or interesting and want to know.

    Emily: We tend to care and read body emotions and signals. So if you’re unhappy with when you’re at work, other co-workers, they see that. Sometimes, if you just open up and talk about what’s on your mind, it even puts you at ease.

    John: Right. Yeah. No, that’s true, I guess. Yeah, it’s serving both sides, so cool. Well, I mean this has been amazing. And kudos to you guys again for all that you do. My watching college football pales in comparison to your passion. But yeah, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to question me since I started out the episode drilling you. So you’re in charge now. It’s all you, Emily.

    Emily: I just have a couple of questions I came up with. If you could be in any other decade or era, what would it be?

    John: Oh, wow. Any other decade? Goodness. Well, I guess probably — I don’t know. I mean it would’ve been an interesting time just like the ‘40s, like World War Two. I mean just everyone in the country pulling together and uniting and really just being together. Plus, my grandfather was D-Day plus 12, so just those stories and the bonds that they had from all that. I don’t know. It just seemed like, yeah, a time when, in America anyway, things were good.

    Emily: You want to go back to the war era. Hey, it’s okay.

    John: Yeah. I mean I don’t know. Yeah. I guess I don’t know. There’s probably no right answer.

    Emily: It’s okay. It’s okay. All right. Favorite pump-up song?

    John: Favorite pump-up song? Ooh, that’s a good question. Yeah. Wow. I mean there’s — I have several, I guess. I mean there’s the classics like Eye of the Tiger or Eminem’s You Only Get One Shot type of song. Yeah, something like that, I think, would probably be a pretty good answer.

    Emily: Okay. Since bringing the whole Fire Department into it, if your house is on fire, what are the two things you would want saved?

    John: Oh, man, besides people and pets? Okay, because those are obvious. Okay. We’re going to go with — I have a Notre Dame Football Helmet signed by Brian Kelly to me, which is pretty special for the work that I do with the football program there every year. Then I guess I have the original Nintendo from when I was in sixth grade. That’s pretty awesome as well. I don’t play it nearly as often as maybe I probably should, but that’s something that’s pretty special as well.

    Emily: You’d be surprised what people ask for when their house is on fire.

    John: Right. Yeah. I can believe it.

    Emily: If you have time, I have a funny story I’ll have to tell you about. Last question I have, it’s a classic question from my high school math teacher. Would you rather sweat cheese or throw up marbles?

    John: Oh, my goodness gracious. Oh, wow. I guess I would say throw up marbles because you throw up less than you sweat in theory. I would probably also have no teeth by the end of it because I would imagine they would just all get busted out.

    Emily: She always ask us that when we first started in our class.

    John: That’s hilarious. That’s awesome, very cool. Well, thanks so much, Emily, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Emily: Absolutely. Thanks, John.

    John: This was so much fun. Everyone, if you’d like to see some pictures of Emily or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.

    Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.


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