Snohomish Fire District Commissioner candidates answer questions from The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times
By KIRK BOXLEITNER
Marysville Globe Reporter
October 7, 2009 · 7:13 AM
The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times sent four questions to Snohomish County Fire District Commissioner candidates.
Fire District 12 Commissioner Position 2 incumbent David DeMarco is running unopposed, while Commissioner Position 3 incumbent Marilyn Sheldon is running against challenger Iris Lilly.
Fire District 17 Commissioner Position 2 candidate Eric Johnson is also running unopposed, as are Fire District 18 Commissioner Position 3 candidate Don Wright, Fire District 19 Commissioner Position 2 candidate Kevin Buhr, Fire District 22 Commissioner Position 2 candidate Bennett Butters and Fire District 25 Commissioner Position 3 candidate Timothy Ward.
Dan Britton and Mel Tingley are running against each other for Fire District 21 Commissioner Position 2.
All of the aforementioned candidates were contacted by The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times. DeMarco, Sheldon, Wright and Tingley were the only candidates who responded. Wright only answered the first two of the four questions submitted to all the candidates. The following are those candidates' complete responses.
1. What makes you the best candidate for your fire district?
DeMarco: I have spent the last 18 years serving the public from within the fire service — three years as a volunteer firefighter and 15 as a professional. My experience includes firefighter, EMT, paramedic, hazardous materials technician, captain and commissioner. Other fire service activities include labor relations and contract negotiation, philanthropic fundraising and fire museum management. I have a bachelor's degree from Washington State University and have attended the Washington State Fire Academy, the California State Fire Academy and the National Fire Academy for a variety of courses. I would appreciate your vote for another term as a commissioner.
Sheldon: Candidates for our district should be ready to commit and dedicate themselves to each meeting by reading all the literature sent out beforehand, making efforts to learn additional information by going to training as funding allows, and being able to work in a cohesive manner with fellow board members and staff. I was fortunate enough to be appointed last year after an interview session with the other Fire District commissioners. Since then, I have taken the time to get the training available to us, as long as the funding was available, and making sure that I am at the meetings on time ready to work. I have lived in this area my entire life, minus undergraduate time away, and I work in the same area. I love this community and am committed to help it be safe, and would like to assist in this effort to the best of my abilities. I believe that all the staff that I have had the pleasure in working with are dedicated to our community as well. I appreciate all their hard work and show them respect in and around the community. I am the best candidate because I care.
Wright: Promoted two new fire stations, oversaw proper training for our firemen and EMTs, listened to the concerns of people in our community and have 16 years of experience.
Tingley: Experience in firefighting and business. I have 27 years with the Arlington Fire Department — captain for 20 years and training officer for seven years. I was in retail for 28 years and owner of Arlington Garden and Pets for 15 years. I worked for local lumber companies for 10 years and real estate sales for five years. I believe that for a department to grow you need leadership that is not employed in the system. I am one who will bring in new ideas and has the ability to step back in any situation to see it from a different perspective.
2. As a fire district commissioner, how would you fight to ensure a benchmark level of service throughout your jurisdiction? What types of challenges does that entail?
DeMarco: The level of service offered by the Fire District is determined by a variety of standards set both nationally and locally. During the last six years there has been no "fighting" required amongst the Board of Directors or the District staff to ensure the delivery of quality emergency services to the community. The greatest challenge faced by the Board is balancing the cost of service with the community's willingness to support those costs. The Marysville Fire District sets low levy rates relative to neighboring jurisdictions yet offers comparable services.
Sheldon: Educating the public, board and commissioners is really the ultimate means to an end to support a NEW benchmark level of service. Looking at the impacts and providing cost benefit analysis also ensures the decision makers are spending the tax payers' dollars wisely. It is important to inform and address all concerns early in the process and throughout to provide vested interest in all parties. Visiting all areas of the benchmark gives the public and board members opportunities to question, discuss and be informed. We work together as a team to look at the obstacles and causes. The fire chief takes great pride in addressing any issues brought forth at meetings, conferences and strategic planning sessions, and is great at bringing forth alternatives as well as the pros and cons for each. Being able to discuss the issue and work with each board and staff member is a huge part of being able to find good solutions. We can do that and have been able to address various issues as they arise. There is really no need to "fight" when you can address the issue respectfully, and still be able to provide benchmarks and achieve them. Challenges in this economy are much the same for other organizations, such as funding for staff, training and equipment. For the most part, as long as we know there is an issue, we make special efforts to mediate and or plan as the funding becomes available (i.e. grants, economy easing, other sources of funds) to address the challenge accordingly.
Wright: We retain an excellent communication with our chief and firemen and other communities, and have had an excellent communication with all the staff. Our station is quick to recognize an issue and it is solved immediately! We keep foremost in our decision making the question "What decision serves our community best?" This means keeping taxes down, but not jeopardizing the protection the department provides.
Tingley: The benchmark level of service for Fire District 21 and for fire departments across the country are set forth by the National Fire Protection Association and Washington state guidelines. As a former training officer and captain, I will continue to strive for the best training available for our firefighters. I promise to be an outspoken advocate of all the guidelines, with due respect to all the volunteer firefighters. The citizens of District 21 should be very proud of our volunteer firefighters for their dedication and service to our community.
3. What equipment and training needs rank foremost for your fire district?
DeMarco: Ongoing competency training is required for all firefighters in a diverse set of skills. Routine practice of everything from automobile extrication to fire suppression to advanced life support is required amongst the same group of employees. These skills must be practiced routinely to insure competence during an actual emergency. All these core skills rank equally in importance and training is designed to insure ongoing competence. The Board is responsible for equipping the firefighters with modern equipment and we have done so to date without incurring debt. During this challenging economy we strive to continue that policy but it is difficult.
Sheldon: We are in the midst of getting new fire trucks that are the ultimate because of safety, efficiency and effectiveness. Training for new firefighters would be basic training, because we just hired several new employees.
Tingley: Fire District 21 commissioners have done a great job of providing and updating equipment for the taxpayers of our district. I will work with the leadership of the department in evaluating the future needs of our district. As for training, Fire District 21 must provide the proper training so that our firefighters can safely do their job.
4. Which are the most important new challenges emerging for your fire district, especially as urban growth continues?
DeMarco: The greatest challenge faced by the Marysville Fire District is the potential for degraded service delivery due to increasing demand and decreasing funding. With assessed values sagging, levy rates capped by public initiative and the cost of employees continuing to rise, the Board and our entire community will eventually face the need to accept longer response times and reductions in available manpower. That need may be tempered by levy proposals to the voters for support of service and you can be assured those proposals will be carefully considered before arriving on your ballot.
Sheldon: Again, most organizations are looking at the same challenges of funding. We are looking at alternatives that will best suit the Marysville-Tulalip area as we continue to grow in size and population. It is important to be updated, work together with the impacted jurisdictions and be willing to consider new ideas. The hardest part about growth is making sure every aspect of the organization grows together. By that I mean we are all informed, vested and ready to move forward TOGETHER.
Tingley: The number one challenge in these tough economic times is to be a good steward of our tax dollars, but still provide the needs of our district and firefighters. Fire District 21 needs a strategic short and long term plan to deal with a host of emerging issues, such as but not limited to providing funding for our district, annexations, zoning changes, future considerations for service for the south side of the district, possible partnerships with other fire districts, training, and EMS and medic service. With my experience and your vote, we can keep Fire District 21 a leader in the fire service community.Contact Marysville Globe Reporter Kirk Boxleitner at email@example.com or 360-659-1300 Ext. 5052.