West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief hopes to inspire more diverse fire crews as she takes over as Fire Chief in Woodland
By Daniel Wilson Early in her career, West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez, who will take over as the first female fire chief for the Woodland Fire Department on Feb. 27, More »
Mill Street Pier Opens In Bridge District
City officials gathered for the grand opening for the $1.3 million rehabilitated Mill Street Pier. It is the latest amenity in the emerging Bridge District. Pier sits 25 feet over the Sacramento River providing breathtaking views of the water, downtown Sacramento, and the nearby Barn entertainment hub.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen, City Manager Martin Tuttle, Julie Alvis, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency gathered as the West Sacramento Fireboat “Boat 41” put on water spray show on the river in West Sacramento’s Bridge District, just steps south of the Barn.
West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief hopes to inspire more diverse fire crews as she takes over as Fire Chief in Woodland
By Daniel Wilson
Early in her career, West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez, who will take over as the first female fire chief for the Woodland Fire Department on Feb. 27, said she received a compliment that embodied what she and most women desire in their careers.
It came in the form of overhearing an “old timer” on the phone telling someone that she was a woman but that he just considered her a part of the crew.
“That, to me, had always stood out as all I ever wanted,” Ramirez said. “Don’t look at me for my gender or the color of my skin or the way I speak; Look at me as what I can contribute to the organization.”
Ramirez said she has never felt discriminated against as a woman in firefighting. By working as hard as possible and being as selfless and respectable as possible, she feels she’s been able to overcome any barriers she has faced.
“I am glad to be representing women in leadership roles, particularly in roles that are not so typical, [like] the fire service,” said Ramirez, who started her tenure with the West Sacramento Fire Department in 1993. “I think we have struggled in getting women into the fire service as a whole and we need to work on that a little bit. Maybe for people seeing me in that role, some young girls…will realize that fire service is a true opportunity for them.”
Battalion Chief Steve Binns, who’s worked for the West Sacramento Fire Department since 1990, will be replacing Ramirez as deputy fire chief.
As battalion chief, Binns is responsible for working hands-on with the fire crew and running day-to-day operations for the department. In his new role, he’ll work closely with the fire chief to balance budgets, implement new programs and processes and run current programs like consortium training sessions, where all of the county’s fire departments learn to cooperate in preparation for large-scale emergencies.
“It’s just more broad-based, more higher-level looking at things,” Binns said. “I’ve always kind of operated on today and at this [new] level, [I’ll] need to operate more about tomorrow.”
Ramirez said the fire department works diligently to help prepare its staff for the job above them in the case of promotion, so Binns already has some experience with some of the duties of his new role.
“We’re going to definitely miss her,” Binns said. “We’re on a steep learning curve over the next two or three weeks, [but] she’s still going to be in the county, so we’re going to talk often, I’m sure.”
Some of Ramirez’s contributions to the West Sacramento Fire Department will have a long-lasting impact on the city.
In recent years, she was directly involved with improving the city’s Insurances Services Office rating, which ranks the department on its abilities to provide fire protection services and sets insurance rates for city residents and businesses based on the ranking.
She also worked to secure a $1.2 million grant in May to purchase Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses, which are worn on the backs of firefighters and provide them with breathable air while inside a burning building, for the department’s firetrucks.
“She has been an amazing person to work with,” said West Sacramento Fire Chief John Heilmann. “I think I’ve learned more from her than she’s probably learned from me.”
Ramirez’s new role is part of a restructuring of Woodland’s fire and police departments, which are both currently led by Public Safety Chief Dan Bellini.
With the announcement of his retirement, the city decided Bellini’s position should be eliminated in favor of a more traditional set up, according to a Feb. 2 press release from the city of Woodland. The fire and police chief positions were previously combined following cutbacks as a result of the 2008 economic downturn.
“I think it’s good for the county and good for the fire department,” Heilmann said. “I think everyone will benefit in the end.”
Ramirez found out about her new position in early February.
“It was very exciting to find out about it and I was a little overwhelmed by it,” Ramirez said. “The support and the encouragement that I’ve received from the city of West Sacramento has been just truly amazing.”
West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle said he is confident in Ramirez’s future in Woodland and is proud of the legacy she’ll leave behind in West Sacramento.
“Chief Ramirez is a pioneer in fire service and a great role model for women who are pursuing a career in fire,” Tuttle said. “She’s done a great job for us. Her appointment of Woodland expands West Sacramento’s fire department. That’s good, I think in terms of cooperation with other departments.”
Though it will take a while to assess where improvements need to be made and how to approach them, Ramirez said the crew at the Woodland Fire Department will help make the transition a smooth one.
“They’re a very dedicated group, who’s committed both organizationally and on an individual level to the citizens,” Ramirez said. “Their culture is solid, their firefighting skills are solid and the city philosophy is very supportive of the fire department.”
Tuttle said he thinks the West Sacramento Fire Department’s deputy fire chief role is being left in good hands with Binns.
“He’s outstanding,” Tuttle said. “The department won’t miss a beat. We’re going to miss Ramirez, but to her credit, there’s a lot of folks who can step into leadership positions.”
A Day in the Life of A Palestinian Immigrant
By Stacy Grow
A stay-at-home mother of three children, West Sacramento resident Nasreen F.’s life is currently filled with caring for her children and home.
Born and raised near Jerusalem in a tight-knit community in Palestine, Nasreen exudes warmth and joy as she remembers her life back home. “Everyone knew everyone else. You might think of us as a third world country, but we had so much fun!” Every day, her family typically received 7-9 visitors at their home, a constant stream of camaraderie.
Once, her family’s apartment complex was on lockdown for several weeks due to the Israeli occupation. Neighbors pulled chairs into a shared courtyard; cards and other games were played; food, favors, and necessary supplies were exchanged freely between households. This strong sense of community and interconnectedness are the things she now misses most.
Her life changed forever when she was 23. She had her Business Degree and was working at a bank at the time. An acquaintance from the neighborhood grocery store set her up with a Palestinian man who had settled in America, but returned to his homeland to look for a bride. After their first encounter in front of Nasreen’s parents and 4 siblings, the couple got to know each other through a supervised courtship. She soon decided that “he was a good man,” and 4 months later, they were married.
When she joined him in America, she didn’t know much English and how to drive a car. She was greeted with a large, empty house and no friends or direct relatives. For several years, she toggled back and forth between Palestine and Sacramento, uncertain where she wanted to permanently settle.
Eventually, she learned English and how to drive, and decided that she wanted to raise her family in America. She cites the opportunity for upwards career mobility here and the difficulty and dangers of living under occupation. Back in Palestine, life was constantly disrupted by locked checkpoints and violence.
Now, she keeps in touch with her family every day with Facetime and WhatsApp. She stays in touch with her culture by preparing the Palestinian foods she loves, such as maqlobh, a layered dish of cauliflower, eggplant, meat, and rice.
Still, being a Muslim mother in America carries a degree of fear. She brings her 5-year-old son to the Masjid Annur Islamic Center in Sacramento for Sunday school every week, but chooses to walk around and wait 4 hours rather than leave him here unattended. Her worries are twofold: that a “crazy white man” will attack the mosque, or that a “crazy Muslim extremist” might do the same. Indeed, just six months ago, a Muslim man was killed in front this mosque after attending Friday night prayer services.
If there was one thing she would tell Americans about Muslims, she says it would be this: “We are all humans in the same community, which we need to build together and not destroy. What hurts one hurts all.”
Our Lady of Grace Parish Honors Sister Michael Henry on her 80th Birthday
By Jan Dalske for the News Ledger
Parishioners of Our Lady of Grace Parish in West Sacramento gathered in the church hall last month to celebrate Sister Michael Henry’s 80th Birthday. Sister Michael Henry has served the children of the Our Lady of Grace Parish for forty four years.
Sister was born on December 10, 1936 at her family home in Moosup, Connecticut. She was given the name Lorraine Catherine Moulin, and was baptized a few weeks later. Three years after that her only sibling, her brother Henry, was born. Sister graduated from All Hallows Elementary School in 1950.
She attended Putnam Catholic Academy in Putnam, Connecticut, and graduated in June of 1954. After her graduation she was hired to work in the local 5 and 10 cent store where she stayed for six months. When a local dentist asked her to work for him as a dental assistant, she decided to do that. A year later he told her that he would like to send her to school. He offered to pay for her education to become a dental hygienist. She thanked him for the kind offer but turned him down.
Lorraine had always wanted to be a religious Sister. She entered the Novitiate of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit in Putnam, Connecticut where she made her Profession of her First Vows on August 23, 1957. She took her final vows five years later, on August 23, 1962. At that time when you took your final vows, you could select three names that you would be called when you became a Sister.
She selected her three choices. Her first choice was “Sister Agnes Marie”. The second choice was “Sister Anna Marie”. This was her mother’s name. For her third choice she picked her father’s name: “Michael Henry” as she did not want him to feel left out. Lorraine did not really want a man’s name when she became a Sister. But, to her surprise that was the name that was selected for her.
After her Profession of Final Vows, the local newspaper listed the new Sisters names. There was a prisoner in Connecticut who had the same name: Michael Henry. He got her address and wrote her a letter. He felt that if a Sister would pray for him, maybe he could be saved. Sister Michael Henry felt that if God could help one person through a name that she did not really want, she would keep that name.
At that time, after Vatican II, the Sisters were allowed to go back to their baptismal or birth name, but Sister MH chose not to do that. The prisoner and Sister MH corresponded until he died. Between the years that Sister had taken her first vows and her second vows she earned her B.A. and her Connecticut Teaching Credentials. She was sent to teach first grade at St. Joseph’s in Waterbury, Connecticut.
The day after Sister MH made her Profession of her final vows, she was driven to New York where she boarded a flight to California. She was twenty one years old. She had never been to New York, She had never been on a plane. And, she was going to California! There was a saying that if you died on or soon after your Profession that you would go straight to Heaven. As soon as Sister MH got seated on the plane, she said an Act of Contrition. She was convinced that she was going to Heaven.
Our Lady of Grace School opened in 1960. Sister Michael came to the school to teach second grade in 1962. After teaching there for four years she went to teach third grade at St. James School in Davis, CA. She was there for four years. Then, she taught for two years at St. Rita’s in Fairfax. Following her short time at St. Rita’s, she returned to Our Lady of Grace School in West Sacramento.
Every summer she studied at Dominican College in San Rafael. At that time it was the Pacific Coast Branch of the Catholic University of America which is located in Washington, D.C.-where she received her Master’s Degree in Education. After her return to Our Lady of Grace School she taught 2nd Grade, then 5th Grade. She then became the Principal. She replaced Sister Joseph, another sister with a man’s name. Sister Joseph was the founding Principal of the school. She moved to San Francisco in 1984.
From 1984-85 until she retired, Sister Michael taught for twenty two years and was Principal for twenty two years. And, she will tell you that she enjoyed every one of those years. In 1997 she was selected as one of the twenty five most influential individuals in Catholic Education. She has been honored by the Diocese of Sacramento for outstanding service and leadership.
Some years were more difficult for Sister. She had two cancer surgeries. From September 1995 to September 1996 she lost her father, her mother and her brother. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1982, and in 2017 she will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee with sixty years of being a Sister.
She has been working as a teacher or a principal for all of those years. Most of the children that she taught have grown up and they came to honor her on her 80th Birthday. They appreciated her dedication. The cards they gave her expressed their feelings. “There is not just any way to sum up how much you mean to everyone! You are the essence of OLG School. God blessed us with you and kept you with us all of these years. You will always be in the heart of so many people whose lives you touched with your beautiful spirit and love, and of course, your beautiful smile. I feel so blessed to call you my dear friend.”
“You see the good in everyone, must be because there is so much of it in you;” “You are the essence of OLG School’” “You are a treasured friend of our family;” “You put such wonderful energy out into the world;” “Our family was very blessed to have you in our lives;” “In 80 years you’ve touched so many lives, shared so much wisdom, and made such a difference to the world;”
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for all you have done for our family over the years. As an excellent educator and spiritual guide to our children they have grown to be productive citizens and able to provide for their own families. But most of all, we thank you for the love and affection you have always shown them. In turn, our children have grown to be kind and generous adults whom we can be very proud of. We love you and wish you the very best.”
Sister Michael is not really retired. She is the Spiritual Director for the OLG Women’s Council, plays the piano at Mass, and works with the kindergarteners at school. Sister Michael feels that teaching is one of the greatest professions. When you are a teacher you never forget the students that you have taught over the years. And, it is plain to see that all of Sister Michael’s students have never forgotten her. There are many people who come and go in our lives. Very few of them touch us in ways that change us forever, making us better in many ways just by knowing them. And, Sister Michael is one of those special people.