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Kasson’s 1st female firefighter achieves trifecta of public service

November 30, 2017

KASSON — Lindsey Derby has known her entire life that her purpose on earth is to help others.

She grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and has always wanted to work in an area where she could make a difference in people’s lives.

“Public service is a wonderful way to do that,” Derby said.

Derby, 30, of Kasson, has worked in the trifecta of public service. She was a police officer in Iowa and was an emergency medical technician for Dodge Center Ambulance. She currently works as a Gold Cross paramedic and joined Kasson Fire and Rescue in June as its first female firefighter.

“My entire life I’ve had a stirring that I knew God put me here to serve others,” Derby said. “I thought that my avenue to do that was to be a police officer, but found out that wasn’t it.”

Kasson Fire and Rescue Chief Joe Fitch said that Derby’s well-rounded experience brought something special to the table — a person who had valuable perspectives from three areas of public service.

“It was definitely a surprise when we read her application and saw she had a law enforcement background as well,” Fitch said. “In the end, it makes a person that much more well-rounded with serving the community and understanding what all the other agencies look for.”

‘No stone unturned’

A pathway of service was paved by Derby’s grandfather, a man who devoted much of his time committed to the Boy Scouts. This focus on serving others continued to be an influence on her.

“I tend to leave no stone unturned in my life,” Derby said.

Derby followed her passion by studying criminal justice at Winona State University and receiving her paramedic certification from Mayo School of Health Sciences. She was on the Winona Police Reserves, then moved to Iowa, where she worked in law enforcement from 2008 to 2011.

Derby said she resigned after concluding that law enforcement was not meant to be her life’s work.

“I was becoming incredibly cynical of our world and was watching it change who I was for the worse,” she said. “I knew if I wanted to be in public service for the rest of my life and still have my personality, I had to step down and find another avenue to serve. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those in law enforcement that are able to do that.”

Derby became an EMT for Dodge Center Ambulance in 2013, then transitioned to Gold Cross Ambulance in May. Shortly afterward, she joined Kasson Fire and Rescue.

“Situations, both good and bad, continually feed my drive to keep serving,” Derby said. “Unfortunately, we cannot save everyone we are called to help. But each situation lights the fire to make me continue to learn and be the best I can be for those that call for help. … At the end of the day we just have each other, and I want to be there for them.”

This commitment to public service stands out to her colleagues, including Fitch.

“She comes to our department obviously ready to learn just like the others,” he said. “She brings to our department medical training and having the background she has, helps us grow as a department in our medical response. That’s a huge asset for us, and in turn, she’s learning just like the others on the fire side as well.”

Fitch said that Derby fit right in with her fellow firefighters, who knew her from her stint with Dodge Center Ambulance.

“She’s really easy going, works really hard to be the best she can be,” Fitch said. “Lindsey’s like a sponge and soaks everything up.”

Derby said she gained valuable perspective from her previous roles. From law enforcement, she saw that there was “a lot more good in the world than bad.” As an EMT, she learned a lot from the patients she would encounter.

“We are going to meet people on their worst days, and it’s not the treatment I provide that they will remember, it’s how I treat them,” she said. “People remember how you made them feel.”

The firefighting aspect of her life provides “true brotherhood.”

“You are there for each other no matter what,” Derby said. “It’s an alliance that few truly get to experience. We take that brotherhood from the fire hall to every call we go on. We care for our patients as though they are our own loved ones. We are there for each other and for our community. It’s a passion that each of us carry.”

‘I’m not special. I’m just persistent’

When Derby was in elementary school, she often received comments about her small stature. Derby said her softball coach called her “too small” to play catcher and moved her to the outfield.

She is determined to not let her size dictate her life.

“I vowed to never let my size get in the way of doing what I wanted to do,” Derby said. “I never listed to the ‘girls can’t do this’ stuff. It’s just chatter, and I’ve turned my ears off to that.”

When she enrolled at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Derby was the only woman in her class and made it a point to pass the male standards instead of female standards.

“If I don’t view myself as different, I find that others don’t either,” Derby said. “I carry that same mindset with me for the fire department. The guys down there hold me to the same standards, and that’s exactly what I want. I want them to know that I can be trusted to get the job done and help them, if God forbid, they need it.”

Fitch said Derby was the only female candidate who applied for the position.

“I think it’s one of those things that the public needs to know, that being a firefighter or emergency responder or police officer isn’t just a man’s world,” Fitch said. “There’s all kinds of female police officers and EMTs and paramedics and firefighters out there across the country who are just as capable of doing the job.”

Derby said she aims to set an example that no job is out of reach.

“There will be kids who point at me and say, ‘Wow it’s a girl under that gear,’ and I wish it wouldn’t be a surprise to them,” she said. “I’m not special. I’m just persistent on obtaining my dreams, and I firmly believe you can do anything that you set your mind to.”