At its regular meeting at El Rancho on April 4, the Rotary Club of Evergreen served up laughter, good fellowship and a chance to hear five candidates for the Evergreen Fire Protection District board speak their piece.
Following a hearty breakfast and choice selections from Evergreen High School’s upcoming production of “Pippin” performed live by its energetic cast, the men vying for the four-year board seats held by incumbents Chick Dykeman and Lloyd See were each given four minutes to woo the Evergreen Rotary vote.
It can be noted that the candidates all expressed an abiding passion for Evergreen Fire/Rescue’s mission and were unanimous in their praise of the department’s volunteer contingent, while lamenting the recent discord within EFR and the ensuing resignations of many highly experienced volunteer firefighters. Herewith, in order of appearance, are the highlights of their pitches.
Current EFR volunteer assistant chief and fire investigator in charge of rescue and wildland training
“I moved to Colorado 30 years ago. My background has always been in human resources. Part of human resources is to urge the organization to do the right thing. Communication is critical, and communication is not just e-mails and letters. It’s being able to hear what’s being said and why it’s being said.
“What the public cares about is that, when that tone goes off, someone shows up, and we’ve done a good job of it. I’m not running just to ensure that the volunteers are represented; I’m there as a professional, as a businessperson.
“Living in Brook Forest, I have a big stake in the department and a big stake in everything supporting boots on the ground, both paramedics and firefighters. Do they (the board) support the people who do the task?
“I’m fiscally conservative, and I’ve always told the truth. If you support me, I’ll support you. And as I’ve told all my friends, I’ll never let you down.”
Current EFR volunteer, former EFR deputy chief, training officer, driver engineer coordinator
“Many of you might know me as co-owner of Kittredge Auto Rebuilders. I’ve lived in Evergreen for 25 years, and I’ve been an Evergreen firefighter for 24 years. I’m about ready to retire at the end of this month, but I still want to be a part of this department.
“I’ve been everything but chief of this department, and I was involved in creating the 15-year master plan that brought us to where we are today.
“My big thing is response times. When response times start rising, I get concerned. We need to make the volunteers aware of their response times and start (improving) them. Slowing response times are what led to talk of becoming a paid department, and that’s what raised hackles. Volunteers take a lot of pride in what they do, and they don’t want to pull hose for professional firefighters. I want to keep EFR as a neighborhood response organization.”
Longtime area resident and veteran of five different fire departments, including EFR
“I started fighting fires when I was 17 in college. When I came out to Genesee, I got involved in that volunteer fire department and transferred over to Evergreen. I resigned last year.
“It’s a great department, and in recent years we’ve accumulated a lot of great assets, needed assets, and we’ve got to maintain those assets.
“On the people side, the department’s been under a lot of stress the last couple of years. The people side is very critical to our continuing to be there for the Evergreen population, and I want us to continue to do that within reasonable fiscal restraints.
“The revenue of EFR has doubled since 2004. The administrative overhead budget has doubled since 2004. Yet our training has remained the same.
“I’m not saying they’re not still doing a great job; I’m saying I’m concerned about the trend lines. I think the focus has been more on the paid staff than on what happens at 2 o’clock in the morning when someone needs to get that ball out of that child’s throat.”
Former EFR volunteer firefighter, current vice president of the EFPD board of directors
“I’ve lived in Evergreen since about ’63, and I joined the volunteer fire department in ’68. My first fire was the Mount Evans Fire. I was up there three or four days, and about 3,000 or 4,000 acres burned. I learned what it means to be under stress.
“I retired from the fire department in ’96, and I’ve been a district board member for about 14 years. I’m kind of conservative, and I’ve been kind of concerned. I do like to spend your money as it comes in to make things better, to make it safer for you, the citizens of Evergreen.
“We have the greatest equipment in the state, if not the whole western part of the country. I like to attribute this mostly to the volunteers and their input to the board. They tell us what they need, and that’s what we try to give them through your tax dollars. The board has never tried to direct the operation of the department.”
Current EFPD president, appointed to the board in 2007 to fill a vacant position
“I want your vote, I need your vote, and I’m asking for your vote.
“This is a very important election. Over this summer, you saw a great number of articles as we began to negotiate the differences between our volunteer division and the board of directors. The volunteers were a great help in negotiating that.
“Over the years I’ve served on at least 20 boards of directors, mostly with civic organizations. Why I bring that up is because boards of directors are different from employees. It’s very important that none of those boards were represented by employees. It would be like the employees of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce becoming the board of directors of the chamber of commerce. It just doesn’t work.
“So I’m very strong in that I do not think the volunteers should overwhelm and control the board of directors. This is nothing against the three men who are running (Ashford, Erhardt and Kling). My point is that you need to have a mix in a good board of directors.”
Evergreen Fire Protection District residents can cast their ballots May 6 at either the district headquarters at 1802 Bergen Parkway or at Wulf Recreation Center on Olive Road.