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AFCA Conference Speaker Biographies

 
  
Walter Gahler 
 
As a 33 year member of the fire service, Walter has a background in several areas including fire operations, training, logistics and leadership.  Currently, he is the fire chief for the Town of Canmore and is responsible for leading and managing the Canmore Fire Rescue Service.  Prior to that, he spent 30 years with the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services serving in a variety of positions, culminating in four years as the Chief of Logistics and Services. As an active member of the AFCA, CAFC and the IAFC, Walter is interested in well developed networks, shared experiences, strategic planning and innovation.
 
Dave Gillespie
 
Dave Gillespie is a professional firefighter and rescue technician with 25 years on the job. He has seen and experienced people in extreme stress throughout his career. As an adjunct professor, keynote speaker, and former Divisional Chief of Training, Dave has delivered a variety of lectures, workshops, and hands-on courses across Canada and USA.

He shares his research and writings on High Risk-High Consequence situations with specialty groups requiring high performance and resiliency over those tough times. He has co-authored : Developing Firefighter Resiliency, by Pennwell Publishing (2019).
Robert Gobiel, NCSO, OHS Cert.
 
Robert Gobiel is the Agricultural Health and Safety Specialist for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), a non-profit oganization with the vision of "Safe and sustainable agriculture where healthy Canadian farm communities thrive".  Rob obtained his Occupational Health and Safety Cerficate with Honours from Red River College in 2007. 
 
Rob currently manages the BeGrain Safe Program, course development and other projects for CASA.  Rob leads a national Provincial Partner Safety Leadership Panel and is a member of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Technical Committee for Agricultural Machinery as well as a member of the Progressie Agriculture Foundation (PAF) Safety Days Development Committee.  
 
Trevor Grant
 
Trevor Grant is the Deputy Chief of Operations with the Grande Prairie Fire Department. His role is to oversee operations, training and logistics of the department. He has worked in many aspects of emergency services including: Municipal Volunteer, Composite and Career Fire Departments, Industrial Emergency Response, and has a background in AH-IMT’s.
 
His culinary experience is little dated, but he graduated the professional cooking program in 1996 from what is now Thompson River University in Kamloops, BC. He worked at the University Campus Activity Center both as a line cook and a banquet Sous Chef. He also worked as a Senior Sous Chef at the opening of Milestones and as Sous Chef at the Executive Inn and Suites in Kamloops, BC until 2000 when he moved to High Level. In High Level he was a part of the design and build of the “Rolling Inferno” community events BBQ truck for the High Level Fire Department.  
Tyler Hayden
 
Tyler Hayden is a keynote speaker like you’ve never seen before! Tyler has been an internationally respected team builder, author, and business speaker since 1996.  He delivers a powerful punch that inspires teams, innovates management techniques, and invigorates team culture. When it comes to empowering audiences and teams to succeed—and to be their best every day—Tyler leads the way with insight and laughter. 
 
He is the author of twenty-four books and the creative mind behind 100’s of powerful and fun team building products. His team building workshops and motivational keynote speeches receive rave reviews from managers and business leaders alike.  
 
With a background as an elected member on his regions Protective Services Committee, Past Member of Ground Search and Rescue, First Responder, Instructor for his provinces Emergency Procedures, Survival and Wilderness Frist Aid - and certified adrenilne junkie - I'm sure you'll find he understands our work in the service.
Make sure your seat backs are up and your table trays are stowed, because we are about to unleash him
Debra James
 
Genuine, effective and client-centered is the bases of Debbie’s Company; Pause & Pivot Counselling & Coaching Inc.
 
After 20 years in the field Debbie launched into private practice to address the intense need for counseling & coaching during these chaotic times.
 
Debbie works with individuals and organizations to resolve issues, amplify their communication, connection and confidence so they can make an influential impact on the world.
She is committed to doing the hard work to launch her clients to new heights, happiness and clarity.
 
After losing a family member in the line of duty, Debbie has a special affinity to support members of the fire service, other first responders and their families.
 
Debbie is a profession member of the Alberta Association of Couselling Therapy,
Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association, National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists,Certified Child & Youth Counsellor, CISM & CISD certified.
Laura King
 
Laura King is the NFPA’s public-education representative for Canada, helping departments build fire- and life-safety programs.
 
Laura worked for many years as a reporter and editor for newspapers across Canada, including the Edmonton Journal (way back in 1993-95, the Ralph Klein years!). Laura was editor of Fire Fighting in Canada and Canadian Firefighter magazines for 10 years before moving to NFPA in September 2017.
 
Laura has an honours degree in journalism, political science and public administration from Carleton University. 
 
Laura is a certified NFPA 1035 fire- and life-safety educator, a certified Road to Mental Readiness instructor, and has a certificate in Introduction to Incident Management Systems.
Laura lives in Ontario but is from Cape Breton, and comes from a family of fire-safety advocates! 
Brian Knowler
 
Brian is a veteran police officer, retired lawyer, speaker, and author involved in the justice system since 1994. In 2004 he was the lead investigator in a motor vehicle crash involving the death of a close friend, causing his life to spiral until he was finally diagnosed with, and began therapy for, PTSD in 2012.
 
Brian has published two books about his experiences with trauma and leadership: ‘On the Other Side of Broken – One Cop’s Battle With the Demons of PTSD’, 2016, and ‘Career Suicide is Overrated’, 2018. 
 
Brian speaks and consults for media outlets on issues surrounding trauma, leadership, and public safety across North America, created the CAPITAL L Leadership training program, and facilitates ongoing Mastermind groups exploring the CAPITAL L Leadership concepts.
Ken McMullen
 
Chief Ken McMullen joined the Fire Service in 1997 as a Volunteer Fire Fighter in the M.D of Rockyview, Alberta. Throughout his time in the department, he was promoted through the ranks and in 2001, became a full-time Training Officer for Rocky View Fire Service. Ken later moved to become Fire Prevention Officer for the MD of Rocky View. 
 
In 2003, Ken began work as a Provincial Fire Safety Officer with the Alberta Fire Commissioners Office. Within the FCO, he was able to utilize his skills as a certified Fire Investigator and Inspector. Ken conducted over 500 investigations in a 6 year period and was involved in over 55 fire fatality investigations.  Fire Prevention quickly became a passion for Ken where he continued his training in Fire Prevention, Education and Investigations.
 
In 2009, Ken was successful in becoming the Assistant Deputy Chief with the Calgary Fire Department. His previous employment within the fire service provided him with numerous invaluable experiences such as a being a team leader with Airdrie Emergency Services, working with numerous municipalities, creating bylaws, reviewing quality management plans, fulfilling investigations and inspection roles, assuming incident command in emergency situations, initiating projects, serving on a number of municipal, provincial, national and international committees and forging partnerships with other agencies to better the fire service as a whole.
 
As a member of CANADA Task Force 2, Ken has been deployed to the Slave Lake Fire in 2010 , the Calgary Floods in 2013 and most recently, as the Task Force Commander to the Wild Fires in Fort McMurray.
 
Most recently, in February of 2018, Ken became the Chief of Emergency Services with the City of Red Deer where he continues to inspire with his leadership, mentoring and his community based emergency services delivery model.  In September 2020, Ken McMullen was the recipient for the Career Fire Chief of the Year Award for his exceptional and unrelenting advocacy efforts of mental health support for Fire Fighters.
Keri Martens

Keri Martens, MA, has been involved in the fire service for over 20 years, originally starting her career as a paid responder and then taking on the position of Fire Chief for the Lake Louise Fire Department in Alberta. She is currently the Deputy Fire Chief with Canmore Fire Rescue in Canmore, Alberta.

Chief Martens sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC), a position she has held since first being elected in 2017, the first woman to hold such a position in the Association’s history. Chief Martens is the co-chair of the CAFC’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, a founding member and co-chair of the Women Fire Chiefs and Company Officers Network of Canada, a founding member and co-chair of Alberta Fire, Emergency Management and Wildfire Management Women (A FEW), a current fellow in IAFC’s Diversity Executive Leadership Program (iDELP) and the IAFC Canadian Division Secretary. Keri holds a Masters degree in Disaster and Emergency Management and is a member of Canada Task Force 2. She is married with 2 children and enjoys all the recreational perks of living in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
 
Gina Osborn
 
Gina Osborn is an expert in navigating Chaos, Crisis and Change.  Having responded to catastrophic terrorist attacks and cyber hacks as an FBI Special Agent and executive, and chasing Cold War spies in the United States Army, Gina knows that crises can be managed, chaos can be controlled, and change is inevitable.  Gina serves through speaking, coaching and hosting executive round tables, VIP Days and Masterminds.  She provides tools and techniques for CEO's, Entrepreneurs and First Responders to lead effectively during a crisis, eliminate chaos before it turns into conflict and navigate change to create seamless transitions.  
 

Dr. Tina Saryeddine

 

Tina Saryeddine, PhD, is a bilingual health services management professional who excels at conceptualizing and managing multi-stakeholder collaborations and innovative solutions in health, fire and emergency services. Tina earned a PhD in management and organizations while working full time. She brings a unique approach to the integration of research and practice especially as it pertains to multi-stakeholder collaborations and consensus building. Working with clinicians, researchers and senior administrators, she has overseen several unique system integration and best practice initiatives. She has received a number of awards and grants and is an adjunct professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. Tina has been the Executive Director for the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs since 2017. During this time she has helped the organization take steps forward in both policy and practice leading to a national organization that truly represents the Canadian Fire Sector.

 

 

Tom Sobol
 
Tom comes from a cooking family, with the underlining passion of serving his friends and family good food always being focused on. He has worked in and out of the food industry before joining the fire service, without receiving any professional training, he finds himself cooking often more now than ever.
 
Tom has spent the last 10 years in the Fire Service, largely up northern Alberta in the Oil Sands. He considers himself lucky enough to be hired on as a full time Firefighter with Strathmore Fire where he was recently promoted to Lieutenant and works in his home town of Strathmore, Alberta.
Trish Tutton
 
Trish is a Speaker and Mindfulness teacher, a graduate of theatre school and a lifelong student. She is curious about how being more present can make us happier and healthier. Her passion for sharing mindfulness comes from her own experience of working in the corporate and non-profit sector. During this time, she experienced the incredible benefits of having a mindfulness practice. She was more energized, happy and focused, and felt better equipped to manage the stresses of her work. She has taught hundreds of professionals how to transition from overwhelmed and ineffective to focused and efficient.
Laurie VandeSchoot
 
Deputy Chief Laurie VandeSchoot, Msc, is known for building inclusive and high-performing cultures that strengthen communities. She is an executive level change agent who currently serves the Town of Strathmore as Assistance Chief of Diversity, Inclusion and Recruitment. Prior to that she worked for the Calgary Fire Department and the City of Calgary for more than 30 years, rising to the rank of Deputy Chief before her retirement.

Apart from the fire service, Laurie consults internationally and teaches at local postsecondary schools. Laurie holds a Master of Science in Sustainable Development, along with several other interdisciplinary degrees and certifications. In recognition of her passion for diversity and inclusion, Chief VandeSchoot has received a number of accolades including an Immigrants of Distinction, Organizational Diversity Award for outstanding achievements in implementing cultural diversity initiatives, and a Federation of Canadian Municipalities Award for outstanding contributions on international cooperation. Chief VandeSchoot is a co-lead of the IAFC’s Diversity Executive Leadership Program (iDELP), Co-chair of the National Sub-committee on Diversity& Inclusion for the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC), a founder and Co-Chair of the CAFC Women Fire Chiefs and Company Officers Network of Canada and founder and Co-chair of Alberta Fire, Emergency Management and Wildfire Management Women (A FEW). She is married, has two children and is an active participant and volunteer in sports, arts, and social justice activism. Every day, Chief VandeSchoot aims to live her credo, “I educate, I create, I inspire”.
Kyle Wilkinson
 
Kyle Wilkinson’s career has spanned over two decades, serving in numerous capacities within emergency services.  Fire service roles include Firefighter, Lieutenant and Acting Captain; in paid-on-call and career fire departments. 

Kyle served as a Primary Care Paramedic in Southwestern Ontario and as an Advanced Care Paramedic in Southern Alberta. 

He was a founding member of the Essex-Windsor EMS Special Operations Division and Provincial CBRNE Response Team,  Director of Media Relations for the Essex-Windsor Paramedic Association and was a contributing member of the Ontario Provincial EMS Health & Safety Advisory Committee.
 
He loves the Alberta mountain lifestyle; where he skis, hikes, camps and fly-fishes. Mr. Wilkinson is an avid wildlife and aviation photographer.
 
Joe Zatylny
 
Joe Zatylny is the Fire Chief of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services. With more than 25 years of emergency service experience, including 15 years in fire leadership roles, he leads the three-time, internationally accredited department into its next chapter as the City of Edmonton continues to grow and change.

Leading transformational change, Joe is positioning the 1300 Edmonton Fire Rescue Services’ staff to meet the continually evolving needs of nearly 1 million citizens of a rapidly changing modern municipality. Joe’s extensive experience leading change will be instrumental in the attainment of the vision for EFRS to be the best fire rescue service in North America through organizational development, having leading work-place safety and mental & physical health supports, implementing equity, diversity and inclusion practices, leveraging data and research for service innovation, enhancing our community engagement and relationships, and evolving our culture. With a commitment to collaboration and engagement, along with proven success in building consensus among diverse stakeholders, Joe brings his passion and commitment to life in his day-to-day work by focusing on relationships, creating an inclusive environment, and his commitment to safety.

Joe’s education and training experience includes a Bachelor’s Degree from Lakeland College Canada in Applied Business of Emergency Services and an Advanced Certificate in Labour and Industrial Relations from Queen’s University. He also holds a Master’s Certificate in Municipal Leadership from the Schulich School of Business at York University.
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