Thursday, September 2, 2021

More to the Story: Chief William Goddard and his Legacy

I want to begin today with a piece I wrote almost seven years ago. When you get to the end, keep reading, because there is more to the story. - - jam

November 23, 2014

I recommend to you today a man I have never met: Bill Goddard. I have come to respect him solely from my interactions with him on Twitter. I can't remember when I started following him, but it may have been in the aftermath of the shooting at the mall. His Twitter feed has been unfailingly polite, supportive of the community, informative, and wise.

On November 21st, County Executive-elect Alan Kittleman announced that Mr. Goddard had resigned. The Sun article lays the groundwork for the possibility that this was not a decision the Fire Chief came to all by himself. New political administrations apparently have the right to shake things up, bring in their own people. The spoils of war, you know.

Be that as it may, my gut tells me that this is a good, hard-working man who has served Howard County well, and that this is a loss for us. I am not an expert in the fire department. After all, you might say, I only know him on Twitter. What could I know?

I challenge you to go to his Twitter feed and just read. Go back as far as you are able--it's only 140 characters at a time, after all. I think you will get a sense of what I did. This is a humble, very human public servant. Among other things, I think he may be the father of a teacher, because he never missed an opportunity to remind his readers of the dedication and value of those who go into the classroom every day and work with kids.

And maybe that made me like him even more. Just maybe.

This quote from Tom Coale is a reminder of what kind of risks are inherent in a fire fighter's life:

This afternoon, I found myself alongside the funeral cortege for Baltimore City firefighter Lt. James E. Bethea as it went north on 83. As I saw uniformed men and women standing on top of fire engines saluting from the overpass, I thought about how much we hear the term "public servant" during election season without really thinking about what it means. I am thankful there are people in this world like James Bethea; true public servants who risk their lives every day without title or recognition. It is a horrible tragedy every time they are lost.

Take a minute to go on Twitter and thank Mr. Goddard. I think it will mean a lot to him.


As you may have already seen, yesterday brought the sad news that Bill Goddard had died of cancer. I was both saddened by the loss and grateful for the many statements on social media mourning his passing and acknowledging his service to Howard County. 

The first thing that came to mind for me was how much he loved his daughter, who he wrote about all the time on Twitter. I had come to learn that she was a teacher, that she participated in pageants, but, most of all, that she was a light in Chief Goddard's life. With all his knowledge and accomplishments, Goddard was almost always more likely to write Tweets about Jordyn.

I went to Twitter to see if I could find her to tell her that and I discovered that there was more to the story. You can learn about it here:

Learning that Jordyn Goddard, at the age of twenty-eight, set aside her career to become a firefighter truly moved me. Her Twitter feed shows her committing herself to her life as a firefighter while simultaneously revealing that father was foremost in her thoughts. I don’t want to skim off of her life or her grief for the good of a blog post, but I do want to share this:

“Chief Goddard, all these videos were in your honor.”

My heart is full. The love here is evident, as is the dedication to service, the determination to learn more, and become better at the career she chose, quite possibly, in honor of her father. 

I always got the feeling that Chief Goddard had raised his daughter to believe she could do anything, and that he truly believed she could. While Howard County mourns a dedicated public servant, the world has lost a truly great dad as well. 

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