Profiles of People: "Ice Cream or Fruit"
FD4 Lieutenant Whitney Mansfield eats healthy and has optimism while having a firefighter's life with ups and downs
Lieutenant Whitney Mansfield gives a wide, contagious grin while on duty at Fire Station 42 in Three Lakes.
Some firefighters don’t like change and prefer the way things are right now. Risk takers, team players, service providers are often terms used to describe first responders. I’m talking about the real thing.
Whitney Mansfield works long, erratic hours, and eats and bunks with people he works with sometimes. He lives the firefighter life, which takes him away from his beautiful home and his precious wife, Renee, and their children Teagan and Mikko. He chooses to live this way because he is a person who has spent his adult life giving back to his community — and because it suits him.
Born in this area and raised for the most part in Snohomish, after graduation, Mansfield was a “nanner,” a male term for nanny, in Texas while at college. After three years of that he decided he wanted to come home.
With his bountiful energy level and intensity of purpose, being a firefighter and ambulance driver was his calling. Never quite comfortable being left to his own devices, the responsibility, relevant action, and camaraderie work well for him.
He says he is “almost maniacal about my physiological needs. I believe sleep, nutrition, activity and affection are key components to my being balanced in my life.”
Even if the informal rule at the station is that if someone is featured in the media that the person has to bring everyone ice cream, his team may be getting fresh fruit instead when this profile is published.
When you think about it, he is trying to do the community a favor. The person I want hauling me down from the second story of my house if it’s on fire, or if I collapse from the exhaustion from writing, is the rescuer in the best shape.
Seriously, though, life and death hang in the balance when Mansfield responds to an emergency call. A baby being born healthy is a time for joyful celebration. Mangled bodies needing to be pulled from the wreckage of a car, heart-wrenching. It’s not like you or I coming upon an unseemly occurrence and we have the ability to walk away: This perpetual intensity of highs and lows is his job.
Day in and day out, someone in this profession should strive for sleep, nutrition, activity and affection in order to be successful. Mansfield is such a success. He is well thought of and has that open contagious smile that people welcome when needing help. Supposedly those who love their jobs are better at them. In his story this seems to be so.
His family is very important to him. He feels great pride in being a part of this town of Snohomish and he loves giving back to it.
Growing up in Snohomish offered him security he didn’t otherwise have.
Mansfield is glad the bypass allowed Snohomish to stay small in the respects he remembers from childhood, but he also appreciates that it has grown in many ways that simply make it a comfortable town.
Both his children attend school in Snohomish, and he’s found from his own experiences that children are wonderful to raise and scary to watch go out beyond one’s control.
One of the saddest memories he has is being present to a trailer on fire and not being able to save the two young mothers or their small children in September 2008. When you have witnessed something like that, letting your own children spread their wings becomes harder. But then there was the birth of a baby in a car near the Pilchuck River. And even though a police officer caught that particular baby, Mansfield was there to help bring its new life safely into the world. This was an affirmation to Mansfield that this world is still a wonderful place for his children to grow up.
Homeless people, the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the vulnerable people are out there. That worries Mansfield. He and others work hard to save them from self-harm or harming others.
But what to do? He thinks he has at least some partial solutions, and he hopes in 10 years or less to be off a truck and maybe more in a position to administer or contribute to the changes.
First of all, he wants people to understand crisis situations occur to people across all financial, ethnic and educational lines. Everyone needs to pay attention to those around them. Learn to recognize when someone needs help early on so that possible intervention and prevention can occur.
He saw a slogan just the other day that stuck with him: “I don’t mind paying for schools because I don’t like living with uneducated people.” He supports school levies because sometimes schools are the greatest, and only support some of the children he encounters have.
About the only complaint he has is when speaking about isolation. He sees isolation as a factor to what become emergencies. He doesn’t agree that, “Some people teach their children not to talk about religion and politics, What we should be teaching them is to be able to discuss any topic in a thoughtful and respectful way.” Mental isolation, just like physical isolation, doesn’t solve problems.
A good discussion can open minds, clear the air, get people thinking and compromising, but only if there is active listening going on. Just hearing someone and dismissing his or her ideas, or not engaging in hard conversations does not bring people together, instead it polarizes and pulls people apart. He’s always asking himself. “Which do we want to show our children about how adults solve problems?
Author Patricia Therrell’s column traditionally runs on the third week of the month. If you’d like to suggest someone to profile, let the Tribune know: 360-568-4121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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