FAMA President Phil Turner Passes Away

The fire services industry was saddened by the unexpected death on Jan. 24 of Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) President Phil Turner.

Phil, who was O.E.M. sales manager for the Command Light division of SuperVac, just took office Jan. 1 after working tirelessly in various posts for FAMA over the past 10 years.

“We will really miss him, because he was our behind-the-scenes guy to organize meetings and programs for years,” said Karen Burnham, FAMA executive secretary.

Turner had previously worked for 20 years in sales at Elkhart Brass and was well-known at all levels among fire manufacturing and sales people.

Tim Dean, president of ProPoly and immediate past president of FAMA, said, “He was a hard worker, committed to the industry, committed to FAMA and committed to his job and to his family.”

Dean added, “Phil was always there for us. He was one of the most considerate and compassionate guys I’ve ever met. You could always count on him. “

Under the FAMA by-laws, vice president Jerry Halpin will step up to president. Halpin, a principal with CET Fire Pumps and former president of Kochek, Inc., previously was president of the Fire & Emergency Services Association (FEMSA), which cooperates with FAMA on major issues.

There has been a major reshuffling and reorganization at Pierce Manufacturing, the nation’s largest apparatus manufacturer. Executive vice president Mark Meaders left the company in November and shortly thereafter parent company Oshkosh Corporation announced a restructuring.

Pierce becomes the lead company in the newly formed Oshkosh Fire & Emergency Group. Its president is John Randjelovic who has headed fire apparatus manufacturing the past 10 years as well as some smaller divisions.

The new Fire & Emergency Group includes Pierce and Medtec, the company’s ambulance manufacturer; BAI, the European fire truck maker based in Italy; Kauanee Fabrications, the wholly-owned Pierce subsidiary which builds its aerial ladders and platform booms; and the Oshkosh Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting division.

Other subsidiaries coming under the umbrella are: Jerr-Dan, the towing and recovery truck maker; Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles (OSV), a world leader in mobile medical scanning facilities; and HLS command and communications and broadcast vehicles. OSV’s vehicles sell under the Oshkosh Specialty Vehicle brand in North America, as well as the Frontline Communications brand, and under the SMIT brand in Europe. The new Group will also include Oshkosh’s snow removal equipment division.

The personnel shifts and promotions that accompanied the reorganization are of interest. First, Wilson Jones has been named vice president for sales and marketing for the entire Group. For the past year he has headed sales for the ARFF division.

Jones, who is in his mid-40s, has been rising rapidly in the fire industry sales and marketing ranks. From a similar position with E-ONE, he was recruited to head sales for Akron Brass for a few years before joining Oshkosh.

It’s well known that Pierce’s most successful president ever, John Randjelovic, is considering retirement within the foreseeable future. All eyes will be on Jones to see if he has the stuff to move into the top position within a couple of years.

Mike Schoenberger has been named vice president for rescue truck sales and for international sales at Pierce. Mike is taking over a hot product area, one of Pierce’s fastest growing lines.

Other names to watch are Tom Quigley, the new vice president of engineering for the Fire & Emergency Group, and Jim Michal, vice president of manufacturing at Pierce.

Having key people in the most critical posts is the mark of a top company, so a lot of credit has to go to Bob Bohn, chairman and chief executive officer of Oshkosh Corporation. He seized this reorganization as an opportunity to ensure that operations are well-handled in the future.

While watching the industry, we don’t want to overlook Ferrara Fire Apparatus when speaking of growth and future in the same sentence.

CEO Chris Ferrara brought the company to the point of building just under 400 fire trucks a year and marketing them nationally and recognized he can’t handle every detail himself.

Chris named Lester F. Alexander III to the post of president. Les knows apparatus manufacturing. Over the last seven years he served as a financial consultant to Ferrara while working in the investment banking business.

Having worked closely with Chris, you know Les has a tough hide and won’t hesitate to tell the boss what he thinks. And his thinking will be directed toward the financial management and strategic planning side.

For the record, we’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about a Ferrara product. It is one company that puts 3/16ths aluminum where others feel 1/8th will do – and that extra attention to quality has paid off.

This magazine has long considered Ferrara as the “sleeping giant” of the fire industry. It has only been pretending to be a sleepy, old, southern Louisiana regional builder.

Very quietly Chris Ferrara steadily built a national network of dealers and has been selling apparatus all across America.

If you ask what the following cities have in common, you’ll be surprised at the answer: Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and San Diego.

National Football League teams for one, Major League Baseball teams for another, and Ferrara Fire Apparatus for a third. Not exactly sleepy old locations, we’d say.

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