ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — After months of back-and-forth negotiations, Alexandria became the first Virginia city or county to recognize a union of firefighters and paramedics since 1970 on Tuesday night — and with the milestone comes better pay and more first responders.

The lengthy process came to an end at a public hearing during Alexandria City Council’s Tuesday meeting, culminating in a unanimous vote and a ceremonious signing of the agreement by the city’s mayor and several people who worked on the deal.

Joshua Turner, who led IAFF Local 2141’s efforts, said the firefighters, fire marshals, and paramedics will benefit from this agreement, as will the community members they serve.

“It allows the people who are performing the services, those who do the lifesaving maneuvers — whether it’s paramedics or firefighters or fire marshals, to have a say in how those services are delivered,” he said in an interview with DC News Now moments after the agreement was finalized.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Amy Jackson told fire staff in the seats of the chambers at City Hall, “we want you to be as proud of the city as we are of you.”

The agreement indicates salary increases and pay scale bumps are coming — plus, firefighters’ hours will be capped at 50 per week, down from 56, thanks to an added 52 positions over the three years of the agreement.

“If they can be confident that they have benefits, they have a community that takes care of them, and they don’t have to worry about that, they can focus on helping the community,” Alexandria Fire Department Chief Corey Smedley told DC News Now.

It marks a shift in the city, as at least one city council member admitted the group of first responders has had to sacrifice more than their peers in other counties. But they believe this is a step in the right direction.

“We know we’ve had problems with pay, problems with overtime, and this represents a major effort by the city to correct that,” said Councilmember Kirk McPike.