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By Beka Compton
The Times 

CWWFD2 hears from hiring committee on Chief job description, expectations


WAITSBURG—Columbia-Walla Walla Fire District 2 (D2) fire commissioners met Wednesday, June 9, for a regular meeting. During the meeting, Ashley Strickland presented the revised Fire Chief job description, expectations, and recommendations to the board.

The hiring committee began revising the job description and expectations for the Chief position, a few months back. The committee included Strickland, who acted as the head of the committee, Matt Spring, Brooke Mikesell, Dane Henze, Jake Long, and Jason Taylor.

The committee recommended that D2 open up conversations with the Columbia County Fire District 3 to develop a formal agreement for administrative and training assistance. Strickland said that District 3 has a long-standing invitation extended to D2, but a formal agreement would create extra accountability, and Strickland believed that it might help boost member involvement.

Strickland said the committee’s following recommendation was to have the board of commissioners and the hiring committee attend a fire association meeting, so they can hear what members look for and desire from leadership, especially from the Chief. Strickland said that he had observed a disconnect between firefighters and the board of commissioners and shared that, along with many hiring committee members, a joint meeting would be an opportunity for everyone to speak freely. He also recommended that the association and the commissioners meet throughout the year to maintain that line of communication, even after the district hires a new chief.

“I think it would help make this an open, transparent process for the hiring process,” Strickland said. “This would give them (fire association members) a voice.”

The final recommendation was to have firefighters take on different duties within the Chief’s description to help prevent being behind on things like billing, training and certification status of each member, and equipment inspections. Strickland said assigning tasks in this fashion will help keep the district up to date and add another line of accountability.

Strickland moved on to the Chief’s job description, where he went into detail for all of the suggested duties. Some specifics included having a presence at all local meetings and events, attending 90% of Firefighter Association meetings, at least ten Fire Commission meetings, and at least 65% of all training. Under this proposed description, the chief would also be tasked with establishing a long-term plan for the department’s success, at a standard that the public should expect.

“I don’t think that the public has the same view of the department that a lot of the people in the department assume,” Strickland explained. “For instance, I believe that if you randomly survey people in Waitsburg, they would tell you that the department has a transporting ambulance. Some of it is history, there used to be one, and some of it is because you still use an ambulance “box” as a responding vehicle. We think that the chief should be responsible for making sure that the public understands that ‘no, we don’t have a transporting ambulance.”

After discussions regarding the Chief’s description, Commissioner Jake Long said that the district needed to look at implementing a burn ban for the summer season, suggesting that it would go into effect in July. He did not think that postponing that ban would be wise, based on current fire conditions, and thought that the ban would extend beyond Labor Day. The commissioners voted on a ban in Walla Walla County but were unable to vote on a Columbia County ban due to lack of Columbia County Commissioner attendance.

This sparked a conversation about the attendance of an unspecified Columbia County commissioner, who has been absent for most of the district’s meetings. The absence has created delays on the implementation of important functions, including the burn ban. Commissioner Long said he would be contacting that commissioner, asking them to start attending meetings or step down.

Commissioner Long shared that a utility/command type vehicle may be available from the Columbia County Public Works Department, to be used by duty officers or acting chief. The vehicle would allow a person in charge to be the “first eyes on the scene” without tying up a fire truck. It was unclear whether the truck would become available, or when.

The commissioners exited the meeting for an executive session, to discuss a personnel issue.


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