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After 35 years of service to the Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Department, Chief Norris Croom III said he was humbled to be selected as the 2021 recipient of the Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership Legacy.

In its 10th year, the annual award is presented by the Center for Public Safety and Excellence (CPSE) to individuals who are committed to elevating the fire and emergency services profession through mentoring, teaching, advocating and sharing outstanding contributions.

In the award announcement, CPSE said, “Chief Croom has always, and will continue, to be an advocate for the credentialing process within and beyond his own agency. He has institutionalized professional designations within the Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Department and continues to serve as a mentor within his own organization and to the Rocky Mountain Accreditation and Professional Credentialing Consortium.”

Croom, who had no idea he was being considered for the award, said he is even more honored to be a recipient because he was able to work with the firefighter the award is named after.

“I wish I had a fraction of the influence and vision (Coleman) has,” Croom said. “He is the ultimate leader.”

Coleman is a retired fire chief from California who devoted more than 55 years to serving, educating and leading firefighters.

Croom, who started with the Castle Rock fire department as a volunteer in 1986, said it has been a continued pleasure to serve the town over the years. Croom was promoted to fire chief in 2018.

Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray said he has known Croom for more than 22 years, noting he is not surprised to see him recognized on the national stage.

“He deserves it,” he said. “He is always accessible to me, to his employees. He’s been a stalwart in the industry and for us for a long time. He has really worked his way up and that really shows his dedication to his job and to Castle Rock. Firefighters both young and old look up to him.”

Going beyond just the Castle Rock community, Croom has continued to serve on a variety of national and state programs aimed at improving education and services.

Croom was a beta test candidate for the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) designation. He served as a peer reviewer, which allowed him to become familiar with the process and ability to provide mentoring. In 2011, he was appointed to serve on the Commission on Professional Credentialling (CPC) Board, a position he held through 2020. Through CPC, Croom provided insight and resources to be an advocate for professional credentialing.

Croom has also served as a board member for the International Association of Fire Chiefs EMS Section.

Croom said every board, every program he participates serves an important purpose.

“All of this over the years has given me the opportunity to learn and influence fire and EMS services,” he said. “My goal is always to leave something better off than I left it. It’s important to be engaged, be involved and make a difference.”

In Castle Rock, Croom said he has loved watching the town grow and be a part of that process. When he first became a volunteer firefighter, the town’s population was just over 7,000. Now, Croom said Castle Rock is exceeding 75,000.

“Every day is a new day,” he said, “and to grow with the town has been both interesting and challenging. The town is on a great path. It has definitely been an honor to serve the town, the community and the state.”

In looking at not just the award, but his career, Croom said he has to give credit where credit is due.

“I could not have done this without this department, this organization and my family,” he said. “I appreciate their dedication to me and my role in the community. This award is a reflection of the team we have.”

The award was officially presented to Croom last week during the CPSE annual conference. While the award is usually presented in a special ceremony, due to COVID restrictions, Croom accepted the honor virtually.