Our Approach

Our approach is one that combines a strong foundation in proven and evidence-based practices along with the application of innovative concepts that are used to create unique, effective, and efficient solutions for our clients.  We create solutions using our team’s unique skill set that includes extensive fire/EMS experience, undergraduate and graduate level degrees, professional certifications, and experience at a wide variety of fire/EMS agencies and private entities. We strive to create a long-standing relationship with our clients that extends beyond the initial delivery of our work and to continue to support your agency’s efforts as you implement the developed solutions.

About Us

Ironwood Strategic Solution’s origin is rooted in the passion we have for the Fire/EMS field. ISS provides us with an opportunity to apply this passion combined with our education, training, and experience to create opportunities to help emergency service agencies deliver exceptional services to their communities. Our company name and logo symbolize the ironwood tree of the Southwest, known for its strong foundational root system and its ability to overcome challenges of many forms. Our team approach reflects these attributes of the ironwood tree while at the same time incorporating non-traditional, innovative, client specific approaches. 

Meet the Team

Our team provides a unique skill set that includes extensive fire service and community relations experience, both undergraduate and graduate level degrees, professional strategic plan certification, and strategic planning facilitation/management at a wide variety of fire agencies and private entities. Further, we have extensive experience in organizational communications – a key component in both plan development and implementation. Professional memberships include:

  • American Society of Safety Professionals
  • Association for Strategic Planning

Gary R. West


Gary has a unique blend of professional work experience that includes 11 years in consulting engineering and 26 years in the fire service. He has a B.S. degree from the University of Arizona and a Master of Leadership and Adult Learning in Applied Settings from Northern Arizona University. 

Gary is an Executive Fire Officer (EFO) program graduate and is a Certified Chief Fire Officer (CFO) by the Commission on Professional Credentialing. His career at Northwest Fire District in Tucson, Arizona included management roles in Logistics, Health/Safety, Special Operations, Operations, and Training. He served as NWFD’s initial accreditation manager in 2006 which he fulfilled until his retirement in 2018. 

He has extensive experience in the safety/health/wellness field and has taught numerous Health/Safety Officer, Incident Safety Officer and accident/injury review courses across the country.

Gary currently is an instructor and peer assessment team leader for the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is certified by the Association of Strategic Planning as a Strategic Planning Professional. 

Ed Nied

Director of Health, Safety & Wellness

Ed has over 30 years of experience in Fire/EMS. He holds a Master of Fire Service Administration and Bachelor of Fire Service Management degrees from Arizona State University. He is a graduate of the United States Fire Administration Executive Fire Officer program, and is a certified Chief Fire Officer by the  Commission on Professional Credentialing.

His career at Tucson Fire Department included many management roles including Deputy Chief of Safety and Health, Operations, Medical Administration, Training, and Special Operations. Ed was most recently the Assistant Fire Chief of the Casa Grande Fire Department.

At the local level, Ed has served as the chair of the Pima County Fire Chief’s Association. Regionally, he is co-founder and past chair of Southern Arizona Safety Officers. At the state level, Ed is past chair of the Arizona Fire Chiefs Safety and Health Section. Nationally, Ed was elected to the Board of Directors for the International Association of Fire Chiefs Safety, Health and Survival Section in 2007 where he chaired the health section. Ed is a member of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association and a ProBoard certified Health and Incident Safety Officer.

Mindy Blake

Mindy has an extensive background in media, communications and community relations. She began her broadcast journalism career at KREX-TV in Grand Junction, Colorado and quickly moved to an anchor position at KOAA-TV in Colorado Springs. In 1988, Mindy joined KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona where she reported and anchored local news for 25 years. Her position required extensive collaboration with news staff and management to produce the top rated and most trusted newscast in the market.

Her second career brought her into the world of public education where she served as Community Relations Director at Amphitheater Public Schools in Tucson.

In 2016 she joined Pima Association of Governments as Outreach Coordinator for the Regional Transportation Authority.

Mindy has served on several boards and enjoys volunteering for Arizona Public Media. She earned a bachelor degree in English from Western Colorado University.