Mason Matthews is a yes man.
Lead the San Angelo Fire Department’s Fill the Boot Campaign for MDA? Yes.
Spearhead San Angelo’s hosting of the Texas Firefighter Games? Yes.
Spend your days off leading Reagan County’s fire department and emergency medical services? Yes!
“A leader is someone who, before they even know the details of the task at hand, the answer is, ‘Yes … and we’ll figure it out,’” Matthews said. “If you’re always putting someone else’s needs before your own – what you want goes behind everything else – you can’t ever lose.”
Although the eight-year firefighter/paramedic holds one of its lowest ranks, Matthews, 32, has become the face of the SAFD. Meanwhile in Big Lake, he is Capt. Matthews, second-in-command of the Reagan County Fire & EMS.
Most firefighters spend the 48 hours between 24-hour shifts working side gigs in construction, lawn care or insurance. Matthews spends his time away from Station 5 “at the top of the totem pole” in Reagan County’s fire station. He often leaves his shift in Reagan County at 5 a.m. and reports to duty in San Angelo at 7 a.m. Despite that exhausting schedule, he talks about his service with (pun intended) fire.
“It never stops – 24/7/365,” Matthews said of the fire service. “People don’t choose when they have emergencies. They need help right now. There’s no one else to call. When you’re growing up, your whole life, you think, ‘Man, if it gets really bad, we’ll just call 911.’ You’re now 911. What an awesome badge to wear – when the worst is the worst, you’re who they’re calling. I embrace that.”
Matthews’ resume includes 12 certifications, teaching peers the finer points of their profession and election by his colleagues as vice president of the San Angelo Fire Fighters Association. Yet he has resisted seeking a promotion in San Angelo. For now, Reagan County satisfies that itch. Eventually, he plans to promote as high as his abilities take him.
“You’ve heard ‘lead from the front,’ you’ve heard ‘lead from the back,’” he said. “I don’t think it matters where you’re at. I don’t think it matters where your rank is in that system that defines what type of leader you’re going to be. Lead where you are and be willing to serve.
“I really like being depended on,” he added.
Even in the midst of non-stop medical runs, Matthews said he focuses on empathy, treating patients as if they were his grandparent or a friend.
“If you do that,” he said, “nothing really becomes routine.”
At work, Matthews is in a “constant state of readiness.” But the muscle-bound firefighter admits to being excited and slightly scared about being a first-time dad – but “healthily” so – with the pending arrival of his and his bride Brenna’s daughter around Christmastime. He’s decided to let fatherhood “hit me 100 miles per hour.”
“I’m a firm believer,” Matthews said, “of doing everything full on … 100 percent … as much as you can go.”