A Champion of Community

Leslie Girdner has a smile that lights up a room. This Frisco resident, wife, mother and award-winning professional brings a special joy and energy to her family, job and community. Her pas- sion and steadfast determination reminds us of how essential it is to inspire young people to develop lifelong, healthy and safe habits.

There is a belief that we all have a jour- ney, a purpose and a dream to share. Ms. Girdner modestly shares her story. “Per- sonally, most importantly, my main pur- pose on this earth is to raise three amazing women to be successful in their own lives and contribute to society in a positive way. Professionally, I truly believe my purpose is to educate others to live happy and healthy lives while minimalizing accidents.”

Ms. Girdner grew up in Carrollton, but moved to Frisco with her husband and young family in 2003. “We moved for the high-quality school district and the active lifestyle. We thought this environment would be the best place to raise our fam- ily. Next year, my husband, Jeff, and I will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniver- sary. He has always been very supportive of my profession and understanding of the demands of the job. We have three caring and talented daughters, Lauren (16), Kayla (14) and Madelyn (10). They are all active in sports and attend schools in the Frisco ISD.”

Ms. Girdner says she wants to be a pos- itive example to her daughters, proving that success is not about how many pos- sessions you have, but about making a dif- ference in the community you live in. Ms. Girdner accomplishes this goal through her engaging position as the communi- ty education coordinator at Frisco Fire Safety Town. Ms. Girdner shares, “Frisco Fire Safety Town opened in January 2007, under the Community Education Division of the Frisco Fire Department. We are cur- rently celebrating 10 years of educating more than 360,000 visitors on fire safety, severe weather safety, water safety, pedes- trian safety and so much more.”

Frisco Fire Safety Town is an educational facility that focuses on teaching children safety messages to prevent injury and accidents. Ms. Girdner shares, “I started working with the Fire Department in 2010 and got promoted in 2014 to the position of community education coordinator. I manage, coordinate and conduct several programs for the Fire Department.” These programs include the Citizens Fire Academy, Frisco Fire Safety Town and the Fire Prevention Clowns. Each October, the fire prevention clowns conduct a safety education skit for ele- mentary-aged children in the FISD. Children learn how to be fun in a safe an innovative way. (You can see the Fire Prevention Clowns at City-sponsored events and the Gary Burns Fun Run). Other programs she helps coordinate include Fire Prevention Week and the National Fire Protection Agency. The Frisco Fire Department also offers free programs for adults such as CPR/AED awareness training, fire extinguisher training and senior education pro- grams (you can register for these programs at friscofire.com).

While Ms. Girdner may coordinate the educational programs and Frisco Fire Safety Town, she is very clear that this program is a team effort, under the direction of Captain Kevin Haines. She explains, “The Community Education Division staff all dedicate their careers to helping others and making a difference in the community where we work and live.” Ms. Girdner gives a shout out to her colleagues, shining a light on why each one is special, and how proud she is of her team. “Jennifer Tramel, the safety educator, started volunteering for the Fire Department after completing the Citizen’s Fire Academy in 1998. She transitioned from part-time and now works full-time teaching programs, coordinating volunteers and conducting special events. She is an asset to the Fire Department and Frisco Safety Fire Town. Chelsea Lindstrom joined the team in January 2016 as a safety instructor. She has more than 10 years of experience teaching fourth grade in McKinney. And, of-course, the Frisco firefighters are role models who reinforce safety messages. They teach at Frisco Fire Safety Town and understand the importance of educating the young- est citizens to prevent injury or illness.”

When asked to expand on her role on the team, Ms. Girdner concedes with a smile, “I am the glue that keeps everything sticking together and going smoothly. I make sure, each day, that the staff and volunteers have what they need to be successful and to have the best customer service.”

In March 2017, in honor of Women’s History Month, the League of Women Voters of Col- lin County honored six women for being outstanding leaders in their careers. Ms. Girdner was among those recognized. “I was honored to receive an award recognizing women leaders in emergency response from the Women Voters of Collin County. Now, I do not respond to emergencies, but I educate to prevent injuries for all ages. Community risk reduction activities such as fire prevention and education are components to keep fire- fighters safe and prevent injury. When fire is prevented from ever happening, it is one less potentially dangerous situation where a firefighter can be harmed,” Ms. Girdner shares.

Frisco is absolutely near and dear to Ms. Girdner’s heart. She does not miss a beat when explaining that her love for the city has everything to do with the people living in it. She says, “I have met so many wonderful people who live in Frisco that volunteer for various jobs that make Frisco a better place to live. These people are the salt of the earth and should be thanked every day. With the number of guests we receive each day at Frisco Fire Safety Town, we would not be able to meet their needs without the support of the volunteers. The Fire Department has two groups for civilian volunteers — the Citizen’s Fire Academy Alumni and Helping Hands Volunteers. They assist with programs, health fairs and special events.”

Ms. Girdner graciously concludes, “The best part of my job is hearing success stories that children have learned a safety message and may have been able to use the informa- tion to prevent an injury or an accident. I am greatly honored to work with amazing people we call the Frisco Fire family. I am very thankful to the City of Frisco for giving me a chance to make a difference in the community I live in. I am honored and appreciative every day.”