A police officer, a paramedic, a firefighter. Lindsey Derby ’10 has dedicated her professional career to public service, and on top of it all, is breaking gender norms as the first female firefighter in the city of Kasson, Minnesota.
Her career path since graduating from WSU has given her a glimpse of the different public service avenues available, allowing her to figure out what best suited her. Starting out as a police officer in Iowa, she ultimately decided to leave that role and join a rural Minnesota ambulance service as an EMT. Enjoying that work, she went back to school, completing a two-year paramedic program at Mayo School of Health Services in 2017. She now works as a paramedic with Gold Cross Ambulance Service out of Rochester, Minn., and in June 2017, joined the Kasson Fire Department as its first female firefighter.
“Each of these professions have the foundation of serving and being there for others,” Derby says. “I’ve always wanted a career in which it centered around being there for other people. I don’t want to be a hero, I’m so far from that. I just want to be someone that others can count on and can trust to take care of them.”
The work can take its toll, however. She says that she and her counterparts see things that most people will never have to deal with. They have to be mentally and physically able to deal with their experiences, and not let the work affect their personal lives.
“I love that God blessed me with the mental and physical ability to respond to the call of help for others,” Derby says. “There’s no better job on earth than the one in which you can be the hand down to help someone up.”
When asked about her view on becoming the first female firefighter in the Kasson Fire Department, she says that she doesn’t think about that title.
“It wasn’t a goal of mine to be the first,” Derby says. “I really never thought I would be an example to other females, I am just someone who refuses to let the naysayers overpower my own determination to achieve what I have a dream to do.”
But even with that outlook, she has heard from others in the community about how great they think it is to have a female in the department. “If me being a member of the fire department shows one person that it doesn’t matter your gender – that is a positive that I never thought I would have an impact on.”
She goes on to say that she doesn’t look at the challenges she’s faced at the department as being specific to her gender. There are times that her size and strength have caused her challenges that others don’t have, but she figures out a way to deal with them. “I really believe that perspective is everything,” Derby says. “If I wanted to have the perspective that my gender is the issue, then I’m sure I would find all the challenges in the world due to that. But I refuse to let my gender dictate what I strive to achieve in life.”
Derby knows that public service professions are constantly evolving to meet the changes in our world. Moving forward, she wants to further her education to ensure she has the knowledge necessary to provide the best service to others. She also often finds herself drawn to leadership roles, so she will strive to serve her department to the best of her ability in future leadership positions.
Her biggest takeaway from her many roles in public service is that “there is a lot more good in the world than evil. You just need to change your perspective on finding it. I’m blessed to be able to see it first hand – humans have an amazing ability to be extremely caring and kind.”
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