The destination is significant, but Matthew Tobia said the journey was equally important.
Tobia, who is assistant chief with the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System recently became certified with the professional designation of Chief Fire Officer.
He joins four other Loudoun County Fire and Rescue executives and is one of about 1,200 people to hold the certification worldwide. The Commission on Professional Credentialing awards the certification based on stringent criteria that include an assessment of the applicant’s education, experience, professional development, technical competencies, contributions to the profession, and community involvement. Using a comprehensive peer review model, candidates are evaluated to ensure that they possess the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities required for the fire and rescue emergency services profession.
“This process is really an effort to raise the bar of professionalism within the industry,” Tobia said. “It also helps the individual benchmark their own growth, personally and professionally, and set their goals for the future. It helps individual leaders and executives who are interested in laying out a plan of action about how they are going to continue to challenge themselves professionally.”
Tobia said an important part of the certification process is the self-assessment required in putting together the application package. He said personal and professional references – including from the head of the department – are an important component.
“Chief Tobia has an incredible knowledge of the fire and rescue profession, notably combination career-and-volunteer systems such as what we employ here in Loudoun County,” said Loudoun County Fire System Chief Keith Brower Jr. “He has far surpassed the critical core competencies for senior fire officer personnel. This designation is a testament to the quality of leadership we encourage our personnel to achieve and are looking forward to many more of Chief Tobia’s contributions to the department.”
Tobia said his professional goal in pursuing the CFO certification involved helping those who have guided his career while at the same time setting an example for those who will follow him.
“For me, one of the signs of an effective leader is someone who invests in their personnel and leads by example,” he said. “In my more than 25 years of work I have benefited from tremendous efforts by others to help show me that way. There aren’t enough words … so the only really effective way to pay those individuals back is to pay it forward. My goal is to take everything they have done for me and help other people be successful and show them that what they have done is worthy of their time.”
Tobia acknowledged the other members of the Loudoun County team who have obtained the CFO certification – Assistant Chief Keith Johnson, Deputy Chief Corey Parker, Battalion Chief Aaron Jacobs and Battalion Chief Kevin Stiles – and talked about the overall vision of Loudoun County Fire and Rescue.
“This process has really allowed me to be a little bit more positive about just how great of an organization we are and just how great a county I have to serve,” he said. “The fire and rescue department puts a very high premium on professional growth and achievement.”
Tobia said he is humbled by the certification and said he has no intention of resting on the accomplishment.
“In three years, I have to submit another package demonstrating that I have continued to invest in my own professional growth,” he said. “It helped me define what my goals are moving forward. I try to be a student of leadership so within the next five years I would like to attend the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. They offer an intensive, three-week program focused on case study-based learning. So you can study the experience of other government executives and learn either to follow that path or avoid that path.”