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Remembering Fire Captain Tim Strack, "an extraordinary advocate."

Dr. Ron Loveridge, former mayor of Riverside, reflects on the "remarkable legacy" of Tim Strack after his unexpected death.

Firefighters and other first responders honors Riverside Fire Capt. Tim Strack, who died Saturday, April 1, 2023, as his body was transported after his death. (Brenda Flowers/Gazette)

The sudden and unexpected loss of an important leader is a shock to any community. I am deeply saddened and dismayed by the death of Tim Strack at the age of 53. He was an extraordinary advocate for Riverside firefighters. He also made an extraordinary difference in the civic life of our city. As a leader, locally and statewide, Tim Strack made many good things happen, a remarkable legacy that cannot be overstated.

As Mayor of Riverside, I first met Tim Strack in 2002 when he became President of Riverside City Firefighters Association Local 1067. I was immediately impressed by his commitment, energy, goodwill, and interest in important changes, for firefighters as well as for the city. He was confident and forthright. He played by the rules. He was hopeful and optimistic. He understood tactics and strategy. And he could accurately identify, and explain, “who gets what, when, and how.”

As the leader of Riverside firefighters, Strack’s record is remarkable. He was the longest-serving president in the history of the Association. During these years, their advocacy was distinguished by civility, engagement, and vitality. Perhaps most important, firefighters’ working conditions improved significantly and substantially. In 2020, the Fire Department became a Class 1 fire department with the Insurance Service Office (ISO). There are only 77 fire departments in North America with an ISO Class 1 ranking.

Beyond the City, Strack was a recognized leader and advocate for firefighters at the state and national levels. He was Vice President of the California Professional Firefighters. He was an influential voice. I remember showing up for a final election rally in Riverside for then-Governor candidate Jerry Brown. Strack stood next to me as a member of Brown’s Southern California campaign entourage.
The firefighters were active in local elections, and Strack was widely respected. He directed their engagement both in the city and in regional races, weighing firefighters’ concerns and the public interest. Unlike many endorsers, firefighters showed up and made a difference with their name, funding, and volunteers — including installing signs in residential yards.

Perhaps for the future of Riverside, Tim’s most important election involvement was with city ballot measures. Recruited by the city manager, Strack was the key campaign strategist for the successful passage of Measure Z. Strack and the firefighters were also major assets in other elections, such as the vote supporting the transfer of electrical funds. These successful elections were necessary for funding services and projects that define a good city.

Personally, I simply liked and trusted Tim Strack. I always felt better after every contact. He explained the mission and value of firefighting. He offered hope. He extended the hand of friendship. He translated aspirations into deeds. He lived with a purpose, to change the community as he found it for the better.

Life starts and ends with family. Tim Strack was a devoted husband. His attention and love to Wendy and their three children, Madeline, Isabella, and Justin were his top priority. He enjoyed sharing their lives.

For a recent UCR class, I invited the 20 best leaders I have known or worked with since coming to Riverside in 1965 to participate via ZOOM. Tim Strack was one of the 20. His extraordinary legacy of enhancing the life and times of Riverside will not be forgotten!

I close with a quote from Robert Kennedy:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events... It is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.”

Thank you, Tim Strack, for your courage and beliefs that bent, enhanced, and shaped our community, past, present, and future.