Community & CultureSports Partnerships
May 5, 2024
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2024 Blue KC Answering the Call Honoree Reggie McKeithen – month of May

McKeithen is a member of the Kansas City (Mo.) fire department 

The May recipient of the “Blue KC Answering the Call” award, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC), is Reggie McKeithen, an assistant division chief with the Kansas City Fire Department’s professional development department.

In his role, Chief McKeithen is an educator who instructs firefighters at all levels of the department. He also writes much of the curriculum for the classes he teaches. In addition to being a firefighter, McKeithen has held several other positions, which helps his credibility.

“Institutional buy in is essential, because they need to know why they’re listening to me,” he said. “Professional and human development is fundamentally based on education.”

McKeithen understands the importance of diversifying the department’s recruitment and retention efforts. He is passionate about increasing recruitment in urban cores. He developed a pilot program that assists recruits who are struggling academically and creates individual study plans to help them pass exams.

Recruits must complete the firefighter academy and successfully obtain all certifications to retain employment. Under McKeithen’s leadership, candidates who do not graduate are reassigned specifically for assistance in their studies.

“Nothing else on the job I have done has brought me as much satisfaction as this,” he said.

KANSAS CITY, MO – May 3: Photo from a game between the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers Friday May 3, 2024, in Kansas City, MO (Photo by Amy Kontras/ Kansas City Royals)

The concept of purpose is important to McKeithen and is a big part of his story. He will tell you that while his name is Reggie and assistant division chief is his job title, that’s only part of his story. As a person, he is defined by his faith.

“It’s impossible for me to talk about me without talking about Him,” he said of his relationship with God. “I promised God I would always give Him credit when He elevated me and used me as a vessel. The platform specifically does not matter to me.”

Driven to serve the community he loves, McKeithen founded “Let’s Talk Shop KC,” a podcast that focuses on changing the community one conversation at a time. As a component of the podcast, young minorities are taught that their dreams and goals are achievable, particularly in underserved areas.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. “It’s not their fault that they don’t realize becoming a firefighter is an option. God blesses you to be a blessing to other people. Therefore, I am responsible for ensuring that they know that firefighting is a valuable option for them.”

McKeithen was deterred from pursuing a traditional career in education before becoming a firefighter, partly because of economics. He notes that the average teacher goes to school for four years, accumulates more than $100,000 in debt and earns an average of $50,000 per year. A firefighter who attends the fire academy and then attends paramedic school for 18 months can expect a base salary of $98,000 a year with unlimited overtime opportunities. They also carry little to no debt, thanks to tuition reimbursement programs.

As a chief, McKeithen places a high priority on mental health. He completed the program and now volunteers for “The Battle Within,” an organization that helps military and first responders cope with the sometimes-hidden trauma of their careers. McKeithen has experienced his share of tragedy in his 16 years in the department. He estimates that he has helped extricate at least 10 different victims from fires. One year on the job, his crew fought 200 house fires.

“As a result of my involvement in ‘The Battle Within,’ my professional career has been greatly enhanced,” he said. “When I instruct colleagues about handling the inevitable stress ahead, I include the lessons and teachings of ‘The Battle Within’ in my toolbox of knowledge.”

Blue KC and the Royals salute Reggie for his commitment to bettering the lives of all Kansas Citians! For more information on the Blue KC Answering the Call program, please click here!

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