“It was kind of a happened-on,” is how Dawn Carson described her career path to becoming East Lansing’s first female fire chief.
With a degree in sports medicine from Central Michigan University, becoming a firefighter was not part of Carson’s original plan. After seeing an advertisement 29 years ago that the East Lansing fire department would hire a paramedic firefighter in one year, Carson quit her job, went back to school, applied, and her journey began. She started as a paramedic and then worked as a firefighter for 22 years before becoming chief.
“It’s a very exciting job because every day you come in, it’s never the same thing, and you never know what’s going to come through your next call,” Carson said.
Carson was sworn in on Oct. 5 at the East Lansing City Council meeting. A typical day for Carson now involves meetings, administrative duties, networking, and engaging with the firefighters, whose duties are unpredictable.
Firefighter Paramedic Lauren Gauthier said, “Chief Carson is extremely intelligent, and it is great having her. In this day and age, we should all be equal. She pushes all of us, and it is a great thing to have.”
Carson said gender does not matter in the chief’s job. The one thing that does is how well the chief can get the job done. While she is honored to be the first female fire chief, she said, “there were a lot of other good chiefs that came before me. … Their gender did not matter because they did a good job.”
Lt. Chris Lum said, “Since she’s started as chief, she’s done a lot of good things for this department, and I think as the years go on, she is going to keep us in the right direction as a great department to work for, and service in the area.”