Chris Hart: Washington County Firefighter

“I have been a firefighter in Washington County for 12 years. It is the best job in the world. I love it. I come from a family of firefighters. My dad and uncle worked for the Oregon City Fire Department. I enjoy serving my community and the crew I work with is first rate.

My wife and I are really counting on my PERS benefit for our retirement. This can be a tough job physically and it is sometimes dangerous. I figure I will have to put in about 30 years before I can retire. If I can stick it out that long, I think we will be okay.

But it would hurt my family a lot if the PERS retirement benefit were reduced out from under us. I would either have to get a second job to save for retirement or put in more years on the job. I have young children —a six and a nine-year old and it’s important to be there for them on my days off instead of having to work seven days a week. As for putting in more years, in this line of work you can’t always count on being able to do it physically as you get older. It really doesn’t seem fair to put my family in this position.

I also worry about my safety and my community. Firefighters get paid a living wage and retirement benefits for a reason. It helps recruit people for a really tough and dangerous job. I want high-quality, experienced people working next to me. If our retirement security is threatened, we’ll see more turnover and less qualified people responding to calls.

To my mind, when I was hired I agreed to work for a certain salary and benefit. Now politicians are talking about going back on that promise and changing the rules in the middle of my career. That’s simply not right.”

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