IT WAS the job Leslie (Les) Milne turned down.
The controller of Fairfield State Emergency Service unit was first offered the role in 2001 but thought it wasn't for him.
"When I was asked to take on the role I said no," he said.
"I told them to give me a week to think about it.
"You can't rush into these kind of decisions.
"Being the controller involves a lot of responsibility and I wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision."
Twelve years later, the unit has developed into a reflection of Fairfield.
"The unit was really hillbilly back then," Mr Milne said.
"Now it's definitely more professional.
"We also have a great team of 10 different nationalities which reflects Fairfield."
The long-serving SES volunteer, 75, joined the SES in 1986.
His first experience in rescue and evacuation was the 1986 and 1988 floods at Lansvale and Carramar.
Since then Mr Milne assisted other major disasters, including the 1989 Newcastle earthquake and the Thredbo landslide in 1997.
The former electrical engineer has been with the Fairfield community through thick and thin, which is why Fairfield Council presented him with the Volunteer of the Year on Australia Day.
Referees described the man as a strong leader who encourages fairness, kindness and promotes cultural awareness.