Leadership is measured by actions taken rather than words spoken. This thought is echoed by members of the Waxahachie Fire Department when asked about the service of Don Alexander to the community.
Alexander has served Waxahachie as a firefighter for more than 26 years and is set to retire July 26. The idea of serving the public started at an early age at his grandmother’s house where there was a fire station on the end of the street.
“I knew that I wanted to be a fireman or a trash man because both got to ride on the back of a truck,” Alexander said. “When I got older I wanted to make money and thought about being an electrician. So I did get into the electrical trade in high school, but I quickly learned that construction was not my future.”
Alexander explained the desire to become a firefighter was shaped by his father-in-law, Bobby Squyers, who served with the San Antonio Fire Department. He looked up to Squyers and saw the nobility in public service.
“Looking back, it was a calling that you have to want to help people. I think that it is inherent that a lot of us are fixers and we want to fix things,” Alexander said. “I think that it goes along with being a fireman and helping is being a servant. Once I made my mind up that is what I was going to do and I was determined to do it.”
After graduating from the San Antonio Fire Academy, Alexander joined the department in 1992. Three years later the calling to serve was affirmed when he saved the life of a child on Jan. 19, 1995.
“I was riding tailboard, and the radio traffic came back from dispatch that there was a child that was still in the structure upstairs. Sure enough, we got there and a witness verified that there was one child left upstairs,” Alexander recalled. “If I remember, correctly there were eight children in the house and they got seven of them out. This little boy had gotten lost in the shuffle. He was overcome by smoke upstairs.”
Alexander described his actions as “automatic” when he arrived on scene. He made his way into the home proceeding up the stairs and found the child close to the top of the stairs.
“I grabbed the kid and went down the stairs and immediately started doing CPR on him," Alexander said.
Alexander stated on route to the Baylor Hospital the boy had gotten a pulse back and was breathing again. He later made a full recovery. For his actions, Alexander was named Firefighter of the Year.
“That was kind of a defining moment for me personally knowing this is what I was supposed to do,” Alexander said. “I really never questioned the choices of my career especially after that. That kind of answered my questions.”
At the department, Alexander’s service went beyond working hours serving as the firefighters association president for 13 years.
Alexander stated service beyond the job just as important as time spent on shift. The Waxahachie Firefighters Association reaches out to the community it serves in several ways.
Two of the way the association gives back is the Care Enough to Wear Pink T-shirt campaign and Fill the Boot.
Funds from T-shirt sales support the Dinah Weable Pink Ribbons and Hearts Committee. The committee raises funds to supply mammograms free of charge to people who can’t afford one or who don’t have insurance.
Proceeds also support the association’s benevolent fund, which aids active and retired firefighter and their families who are battling cancer. Since 2008 the fund has paid out a little more than $33,000.
In 2017 Fill the Boot raised $20,934 from motorists for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Alexander encourages people to fire a way to give back and serve and to invest in people’s lives.
“I would say make a difference. If you take that outlook every day whether it is at the station, on call, or in your personal life,” Alexander said. “You can fit that into any aspect of your life.”
Pump Engineer Julio Hernandez stated Alexander is a guy that has the heart for the community he serves on and off the job.
“I think that the younger guys will take what Don has taught us and show the next guy coming up how it has been done,” Hernandez said. “By him teaching us now we will be able to pass that along."
Fire Chief Ricky Boyd stated Alexander has always been a person that leads by example.
“There is no doubt that Don has been a pivotal part of our organization for over 25 years, Boyd said. “He is the type of guy that will take on extra duties without having to be asked or told. He is just a stand-up quality guy.”
Capt. Josh Anderson Alexander was a person that people always could look up to and seek out for advice.
“Around the station, he was always fun to talk with or to get advice, Anderson said. "Getting his outlook on stuff was valuable to me and a lot of people in the department."
Former Waxahachie firefighter and Mayor Kevin Strength stated Alexander dedication to service shows.
“He is one of the finest individuals I know and has one of the biggest hearts that I have ever seen,” Strength said. “He really cares about the job, his men and their wellbeing.”