Recently we had the opportunity to sit down one on one with the newly elected Boston Firefighters Local 718 President, Sam Dillon. We were able to not only learn about his background but also also had the opportunity to ask the new president some questions on what to expect from the new administration.
Sam Dillon, who is 36, was born right here in Boston. He attended grammar school at the Dexter School and graduated from Brookline High School in 2005. Right out of high school, Dillon enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served in 2nd Battalion 6th Marines as an Infantry Rifleman and Squad Leader.
During his time in the Marine Corps he served in Fallujah, Iraq and Marjah, Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing ‘V’ for Valor.
Upon being Honorably Discharged from the Marine Corps as a Sergeant in 2011, he returned home and eventually joined the Boston Fire Department in 2013. Currently Dillon is assigned to Tower Ladder 10 in Jamaica Plain. During his time on the Boston Fire Department he has served as an officer with the Honor Guard as well as a House Steward and Executive Board Representative with Local 718.
He was elected to serve as President of Local 718 and was sworn into office on June 16, 2022. He currently lives in Roslindale with his wife, Alexandra, and newborn son Edward.
Q: How long have you been a firefighter and why did you choose this career?
A: “I’ve been a firefighter for nine years […] it’s all I ever wanted to do”.
Sam sees it as more than just putting out fires, he sees the “spirit of service and service to others, taking care of people in some trying times and when they’re going through difficult situations”. He has been in the business for nine years and plans to continue to lead from the front.
Q: Why did you run for Union President?
A: “I saw firsthand how important it is to have dedicated union leadership […] I never really imagined myself running for president when I first started going down there.”
Dillon, who now seems happy in the role credits those around him with pushing him to run. He said that the reason he took this opportunity was the people around him who knew him best and the work he could do convinced him it was the right move. “To have those people tell you that they want you to be the person representing them regardless of where you’re at personally… you can’t say no to that.” In the end Dillon is honored by his new role, “I can’t imagine a greater professional honor than chosen by my fellow firefighters to advocate for them and their families.”
Q: Looking back at past presidents, what will you do differently or similar?
A: “I’m very fortunate with 718 we have a proud history of strong and successful union leaders. That leaves me with some pretty big shoes to fill but they’ve also provided me with great examples and a great road map to follow if I want to be successful and if I want to continue the successes of our union.”
He cites “their passion, their drive, and their commitment” as what made them great leaders. Dillon said that previous union presidents weren’t afraid to stand in front, to take charge, or say that they didn’t have all the answers. Dillon’s “big thing is solidarity and involvement” and wants to continue to serve firefighters across Boston.
One thing that Dillon found important was “putting in the time and putting in the effort even when you don’t have it because if it’s important to [a] member, it’s important to you and it’s important to the union.”
Q: How do you think your past union service has prepared you for this role?
A: “I was a House Steward for several years and I was on the executive board for one term before being elected to be a president.”
Dillon passionately emphasized having the opportunity to “get out and interact with the membership” while serving on the Executive Board as well as House Steward. “Getting into the firehouses. Getting into the union hall. Never missing an opportunity to interact with our membership. It’s not about telling the membership what you want, it’s about listening to what they want and then providing the leadership and guidance that’s going to get them there.”
Q: What does it mean to you personally to be President?
A: “I can’t imagine a greater professional honor than chosen by my fellow firefighters to advocate for them and their families. This role has already brought immense changes to my life. It’s an imposing responsibility but it’s a tremendous responsibility.”
Speaking on how exciting and humbling it is to be president, Dillon spoke about the tremendous responsibility bestowed upon him saying, “Anything that I say or do now is a direct reflection of the people I represent; I have a responsibility to them, and in that responsibility, failure simply isn’t an option.”
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Union?
A: “I’m not going to use the word challenge, I’m going to use the word opportunity….”
Looking forward to what the future brings and the solidarity of the union, Dillon elaborated to say, “We have to capitalize on that opportunity [of solidarity] because that’s what’s going to make us successful. That’s what’s going to continue this union’s success. That’s what’s going to make this union accomplish what we want to do and what we need to. We become a younger job and we’re fortunate to have people from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life but at the end of the day they’re here to protect each other and they’re here to serve the city of Boston.”
Q: How does the Union, under your leadership, plan to engage the community and grow support for the file and rank?
A: “Community engagement is one of the top priorities for our leadership. Best part about that is, it’s already out there. Our firefighters, they’re already leaders in the community on and off duty. They serve and protect the city on the clock then they leave the Firehouse and they go and coach youth sports. They’re active in the neighborhoods”
Dillon continued to say “We’re going to show the public who we really are. Not to promote ourselves, not to benefit ourselves but that’s just who we are. Firefighters live in the community. They serve the community and whether you’re on or off duty that mentality never stops. We are there to help people. We are there to make our city better and we’re here to make the lives of the people who live here better.”
Q: Given the history between the union and the mayor, what should we expect moving forward?
A: “Everyone should expect what we are going to deliver, and what we expect in return, and that is a professional and productive relationship, where both sides are committed to working in respect and cooperation.”
Dillon spoke more on the topic stating, “Over the course of time, relationships between labor and management are going to have periods of friction in disagreement but those relationships should never be defined by those moments.” He also said that he looked forward to working with Mayor Wu when it comes to advocating for firefighters, our families, and the citizens of the City of Boston. Dillon finished by saying “At the end of the day we both serve the public and there’s a great deal of common ground and a common foundation there that we can build.”
Q: Under your leadership what are your goals for relationships with other first responders Unions?
A: “We’re gonna work incredibly hard to solidify the relationship between 718 and all public safety unions. When our people, when our members are out there on the street we rely on law enforcement and we rely on EMS to protect us so that we can do our job of protecting others”
Praising the hard work that Boston Police, Boston EMS & Massachusetts State Police do hand in hand with Boston Fire, Dillon looking forward to continued relationships continued to say “We all wear different badges but we’re part of the same family and that’s how we’re going to treat this.”
During the July 4th festivities at the Esplanade, Dillion was seen meeting with his members and other first responders side by side with State Police Union President Patrick McNamara, signaling a growing sense of unity between some of the strongest public safety unions in the Commonwealth.
Q: As the court still hasn’t ruled on the vaccine injunction, where do you see this issue going and what message do you have for your members and the public?
A: “It’s the policy of local 718, that we don’t comment publicly on matters currently pending any type of legal litigation. My message to our members, on any issue, is that their leadership will always advocate strongly and justly on behalf of them and their families. My message to the public is that we are your Boston firefighters, we’re here to protect you, we’re here to help you and you can always count on us.”
Q: Increasing diversity within the ranks has been an ongoing priority for the department. Under your leadership, what will the Union do to promote this?
A: “Diversity continues as a major topic for the fire department because it is so important. Right here and right now I’m here to say it, Local 718 stands ready and willing to engage in productive conversations with all parties involved.”
President Dillon emphasized the importance of productive, professional dialogue on important topics like diversity. He also discussed how crucial the willingness to have those conversations and actually listen and participate in such important topics will contribute to prioritizing diversity within the department.
Q: So there’s been pushback by City Hall to eliminate details for first responders, what’s your view on this?
A: “Trained and qualified firefighters, or all first responders for that matter, assigned to paid details are essential resources for preventing emergencies and keeping the public safe. There is absolutely no alternative.”
President Dillon continued to say that Local 718 is a first hand witness to the tragic consequences of welding and hot works being conducted without the supervision of a firefighter on a paid detail, speaking of the Beacon St. Fire in the Back Bay where two Firefighters tragically lost their lives battling a quick moving wind driven fire. Dillon says he plans on working with other first responder unions to tackle this issue head on.
Q: What are your top three goals for the union during your term?
A: “Solidarity, advocacy, and respect. We’re going to solidify our membership in a way that we’ve never seen before we’re going to accomplish that by advocating professionally and firmly on behalf of them and our families. In this union, Boston firefighters are going to demonstrate that we’ve earned the right to be respected by elected officials and by the public. Every single day 24/7, members of local 718 are out there risking their health, their safety, and their livelihoods for the City of Boston and the people who live here. That’s something that we believe in. That’s not our job, that’s our calling and my job as union president and the job of local 718 or any union. It is the highlight.”
Q: To wrap things up, is there anything else you wanna add or topics that we have that you want public members to know?
A: “To be honest, we covered a lot. I’m excited. I’m excited personally. I’m more excited and enthusiastic as I am as the president of local 718, I’m more excited as a member of 718. As a member of 718, as someone who’s been in this unit for nine years, as someone who has hopefully 30 years to go in this union, I’m excited about what we’re doing and I’m excited about what we’re about to accomplish. It’s a great time to be a member of 718. It’s a great time to be a Boston firefighter and I’m excited to just be a part of it and to think that I’m going to be the president under these things taking place is incredible.”
Described as a “Jake’s jake,” “an all around standup guy,” and “a man for the department” by his colleagues, President Sam Dillon expressed his happiness in being able to serve his fellow firefighters in Local 718 and progressing the solidarity, advocacy and respect of the membership.
LiveBoston would like to thank President Sam Dillon for giving us the opportunity to sit down and talk with him. We would like to wish him luck in his Presidency of Boston Firefighters Local 718 and we look forward to seeing what he brings to Local 718.