By Dave Roberts
The United States Police & Fire Championships returned this week to San Diego — where they belong — and anyone interested in Olympic-style competition should come out to cheer for the first responders.
The championships include 3,200 public safety professionals from across the United States and Canada. They are competing in 50 sports — from archery to water polo — at facilities across the county.
The games are scheduled to continue through Saturday. To see a roster of events and locations, visit the championships website at www.uspfc.org.
Last Saturday, I met some of the athletes and organizers during a reception at the Town & Country Resort. Adding to the excitement of this year’s championships is a milestone: the competition is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Having fun and feeling the appreciation from cheering fans — who could be more deserving of those things than the men and women who sacrifice so much to keep us safe?
Beyond that, I appreciate how the competition fits hand-in-glove with the county’s Live Well San Diego initiative for safe, healthy and thriving communities. And I like the social opportunity that the games provide for people with very stressful jobs.
“We look forward to seeing each other,” said Jane Kaufmann, 57, a retired California prison guard. “When you go to these games, it’s like, “‘Oh, I’m going to see my friends!’”
Kaufmann, a recent hall of fame inductee, wore three gold medals for her finishes in the 100-meter run, shot put and javelin.
As the event’s honorary chairman, I am rooting for Kaufmann and her cohorts and doing what I can to keep the games right in San Diego. Last year, we were at risk of losing them for lack of an anchor sponsor.
The Board of Supervisors, however, understood the morale- and economy-boosting value of the games. Upon my recommendation, supervisors voted 5-0 to support the competition with a $50,000 grant from the Third District Neighborhood Reinvestment Program.
Clearly, the police and fire championships brought significant spending to our region.
Most of the athletes come from out of town. During their time here, their stays add up to thousands of “room nights” in local hotels.
According to a 2014 study by National University, the championships were responsible for $3.8 million in direct spending and a total economic impact of nearly $6 million. Those receipts support the equivalent of 60 full-time jobs.
While economic development and support for public safety gave county supervisors a reason to back the games, the games give Kaufmann a reason to stay in shape.
Kaufmann’s knee is taped after jarring it during the javelin toss, but the Sacramento resident says she still plans on competing in a rowing event this week.
As a competing athlete, she has traveled to many foreign countries and made many new friends.
“Two of my best friends are firefighters I met at the games,” she said. “It’s just really cool.”
Supervisor Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.