Chuck Winn, Bozeman, Class of 2015, Masters 2019
Interview by Bridget Wilkinson, Bozeman, Class of 2019
At an early age, Chuck Winn became a reformed “city boy”. At age 14, he left his city ways behind him when he moved from sunny California to Billings, Montana. It was then and there he became a true “Montana boy”, taking advantage of all of the outdoor opportunities that Montana had to offer. Chuck, the eldest child of four, relocated to Montana with his two younger sisters, younger brother and parents. His father was a golf pro and the family often moved every seven years. However, when he arrived in Montana, he knew he had found his forever home. Chuck believes that there is a special Montana feeling. You either get it or you don’t. If you’ve been to Montana, you get it. It’s a special place with special people.
From an early age, Chuck dreamed of becoming a police officer. When he ran into a volunteer fire fighter in the lobby of Culbertson Hall while attending Montana State University, he decided that job sounded interesting, too, so he became a volunteer firefighter. When a position opened on the Bozeman Fire Department he decided taking the test would be good practice for the Billings Police Department test. He took the test and was completely surprised at receiving and job offer at the age of 20. He figured if he didn’t like the firefighting job he could always become a police officer. 24 years later he retired as the Bozeman Fire Department Fire Chief. In his role, he loved being able to help people during their darkest hour.
During his tenure in the Fire Department, Chuck often met with the Assistant City Manager who became a mentor and friend. When the Assistant City Manager announced his retirement, Chuck applied for his position and was again surprised when they offered him the job. During his time at the City of Bozeman, he enjoys his role of problem solving and leading projects. He uses his Leadership Montana experience most often when he strives to “invite the stranger” into his work. Another mentor encouraged Chuck to think about the person that he would least like to participate in a conversation or a team and then invite them to the table. When Chuck invites the stranger in his work, he hears different perspectives and they often give very good advice. As a result, the outcome is better because of their participation.
When asked about his life, Chuck says it’s the most amazing gift, but that he himself is pretty boring. He has lived in the same house for 30 years. He has had the same employer for 35 years and he has been married to same wonderful woman for 30 years. However, Chuck continually strives to deepen the impact of his life on those around him by expanding his leadership skills through the Leadership Montana flagship program and by participating in the first Masterclass. Additionally, Chuck travels to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia each year to serve orphaned children and widows through a nonprofit, Bring Love In. In my opinion, Chuck is anything but boring. Our community is richer for his leadership and dedication to public service.