The South Lane County Fire and Rescue (SLCFR) Board of Directors is seeking to appoint a member to its vacant seat of Board Position #4.
With a deadline for applications on Jan. 15, at 5 p.m., appointment of the seat will bring the board back to a full five-member body after operating for more than half a year with just four members.
“They want someone to fill the vacancy who understands board dynamics and how to interact as a board,” said SLCFR Division Chief Joe Raade. “Somebody that can help the fire chief implement the strategic planning process that we finished a year or so ago, so somebody that may have some experience or has some passion and understands how to be part of a team or part of a board. And I imagine some familiarity with what the district is trying to accomplish.”
The open seat carries with it a context of controversy left over from last year.
It has been vacant since last June, when board member Jennifer Radcliffe announced her resignation following a split decision by the board to return Fire Chief John Wooten to full duty without disciplinary action.
Wooten had been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave after a controversial post made by the fire chief on Facebook was reported by KEZI News on June 2.
The post in question read: “So I made the comment we should shoot the rioters and someone asked me how I could possibly do that. I replied it depended on distance, wind, temp, humidity and a few other variables but once I had the calculations done it would be a matter of breathing control and trigger squeeze.”
Public response to Wooten’s post split the community into camps, with some supporting the fire chief and others condemming him — a division which was represented in the board’s 3-2 vote.
Following the vote, Radcliffe expressed her disappointment that the board’s actions were not a matching response to the chief’s conduct.
“In light of recent events, I really have lost confidence in the rigor of this board to do what it is they were elected to do by the [people] in Lane County,” she said before resigning. “They’ve been acting more as the fire chief’s friends than his employer.”
Board members who voted in the majority at the time pointed to Wooten’s effectiveness in his role as fire chief as a factor in their decision.
“I think the local community recognizes his value to this district and they don’t want to lose him, even if he made a mistake,” said board member Dan Duffy during the June 18, 2020 meeting.
To be eligible for consideration of the vacant seat, applicants must be a qualified elector within the district and proof of eligibility will be verified by the district itself.
SLCFR Board Policy lists several responsibilities and obligations of board members.
Members are responsible for such duties as disbursing of funds, reviewing and adopting annual budgets, determining levels of service to be provided to the community, choosing the location of firehouses and selecting a fire chief for the district.
Further, board members are obligated to abide by certain manners of conduct, including that they understand the district’s basic functions and board meeting topics at a policy level, recognize the administrative and operational authority of the fire chief and not allow outside pressure or personal issues to weigh on the integrity of the board.
“No matter who gets on into this position, hopefully it is somebody that is coming in with intentions of pushing our district forward in a positive manner,” said Raade, “and is going to be able to work well with the remaining four board members and be able to become part of that team that has the best interest of the community and the fire district and the taxpayers.”
The appointment to the seat will expire June 30. To continue their role in the position, the person appointed by the board must successfully file for and be elected to the board in the May 2021 Special Election.
The board meets the third Thursday of every month, making Jan. 21 its next expected meeting date, though a notice for the meeting has not yet been released.
Further public SLCFR announcements can be found at the district’s website at southlanefire.org.
To be added to the distribution list for public meeting notices, email [email protected] or call the office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 541-942-4493.
SCLFR has also activated a new Facebook group page titled “South Lane Fire and Rescue” to encourage public interaction.
Letters of interest for the board position should include name, address, phone number, email and a statement explaining the applicant’s interest and qualifications to serve on the board of directors for the appointed term.
Submissions without the information stipulated above will not be considered.
Letters may be submitted by mail or delivered to:
SLCFR Board of Directors, Attn: Letter of Interest, 233 Harrison Ave., Cottage Grove, OR 97424
Submissions are also accepted by email at [email protected]
Fax submissions will not be accepted.
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