Determination has always played an important part in Kenny Taylor’s working life. A determination to succeed, do well and lead by example has been the driving force behind his career in the fire service.
It was determination, and confidence in his own ability, which saw him rise from raw recruit to the rank of Chief Fire Officer of Central Scotland Fire and Rescue.
It was determination that led to him being recruited in the first place.
At the start of his working life it was a career in finance that beckoned for a young Kenny Taylor. Born in Stirling and raised in Alloa he left the local academy at 17 to join Clackmannan Council as a trainee accountant but after four years ‘crunching numbers’ he realised it was a job that did not ‘add up’ for him so he quit and was hired as a warehouseman at a local distrubution depot.
This week, just a few weeks before he retires after 30 years service as a firefighter, he recalled taking the decision that was to change the direction of his life.
“I finally realised that working with figures just didn’t ‘float my boat’ so I moved on,” he said. “It was soon after I switched jobs that I started meeting up regularly with a friend who was a fireman with Central Region Fire Brigade at Alloa station. He was always going on about what a great job it was so I thought I’d give it a try.
“It wasn’t easy though. I applied more than once for a place on the recruitment programme. I applied many times and was told many times they were not taking anybody on ‘at the moment’. But I was determined not to take no for an answer and was finally accepted in May, 1983. That was a life-changing moment for me and a decision I’ve never regretted.”
After completing 16 weeks basic training at Gullane he was posted to Bo’ness Fire Station and the following year transferred to Alloa. As a leading firefighter he moved to Stirling in 1987 then back to Bo’ness as a sub officer in 1990. He also carried out these duties at Alloa in 1991 before being promoted to another frontline role as station officer at Stirling later that year.
In 1993 he transferred to brigade headquarters at Maddiston as station officer in the staff department then appointed Assistant Divisional Officer and Group Commander responsible for Falkirk and Bo’ness fire stations in 1997.
His leadership skills were recognised again in 2001 when Kenny Taylor was promoted to Divisional Officer with responsibility for the service’s personnel and resources and in 2004 when he was appointed Divisional Officer and later Area Manager as Head of Community Protective Services of the re-named Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service.
He took the step up to Deputy Chief Fire Officer/Director of Service Delivery with the responsibility for operational planning, civil contingencies, health and safety and fire safety issues in 2008 and appointed Chief Fire Officer in charge of 390 full and part-time firefighters, nearly 50 civilian support staff, 12 fire stations and a budget of £17 million in March, 2010.
He is one of the very few firefighters to have moved from the first rung on the ladder to the very top of his profession with the service that he joined.
A few weeks before he completes his final ‘shift’ he admitted: “I’ve been very fortunate to achieve all my career goals. Although I never set my sights on this role, I’ve always given the job my heart and soul and when the opportunities came up was always comfortable and confident to throw my hat into the ring.
“It has been a very satisfying and rewarding career. Of course over the last 30 years there have been many changes to the way the fire service operates and approaches its role, but many of them have been for the better. The modern Fire and Rescue Service has invested in the technology, equipment and manpower to be capable of meeting the many challenges it faces.
“There is a higher awareness of the wide role in the community they play and today’s firefighters have been trained to do their jobs well.
“As we move to the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service I have every confidence it will shape up and maintain the high standards our communities expect. As we have moved towards the change I’ve seen for myself there is a lot of goodwill and determination across the ranks to make it work.
“Central Scotland Fire and Rescue has consistently punched above its weight and my people are well prepared to maintain that level of best practice and make a major contribution.”
Kenny Taylor (54) lives with his wife, Phyllis, in Alloa. Their daughter, Louise (24) is about to graduate as a teacher and their son, Gary (19), is training to be an engineer with British Airways.
In retirement he is looking forward to working on getting his golf handicap down and enjoying his other hobbies which include hill walking and photography.