Fire chief feels election vindicates his position |

Fire chief feels election vindicates his position

— Now that a new majority has been elected to the West Routt Fire Protection District board of directors, the fate of Fire Chief Bryan Rickman’s current job may be a bit more secure.

“I’m glad the public turned out in support of me that is essentially what happened,” Rickman said.

Hayden voters elected four new members to the West Routt Fire Protection District in the elections Tuesday, replacing incumbents Chuck Grobe, Charlie Epp and Richard “Festus” Hagins with newcomers Ross Fralick, Ed Hockin, Bob Preator, and Susan DeBowes.

Residents appear to want a change of direction and remain very concerned about personnel issues that transpired over the winter, said Preator, one of the newly elected board members.

In the race for two, four-year terms, Grobe and Epp lost to Hockin and Fralick by more than a 2-1 margin. In the race for two, two-year terms, Preator and DeBowes were elected over Hagins, also by a roughly 2-1 margin.

Some of the newcomers attributed the incumbents’ resounding defeat to their board’s controversial decision to eliminate the district’s paid fire chief position earlier this year.

Although the former Fire Board voted earlier this year to eliminate the position, Rickman has maintained his title while the board worked to finalize a job description for him as director of emergency services, a position created specially for him.

“As of today, I am still the fire chief,” Rickman said Wednesday. “I will continue in the way I have been until the new board decides to change direction. I don’t expect any great changes as a result of the election other than being more certain of employment.”

The fire chief position is an important one worth keeping, not just for Rickman but for Hayden in the future as well, Preator said.

Although Preator does not have any immediate plans toward that end, he is anticipating doing some research.

“The events that transpired over the winter are not set in stone, and all of it can be changed. We need to see whether or not the resources are available to implement changes that the new board deems warranted,” Preator said.

“This all makes the 26 years I’ve given to the district worthwhile, and it is extremely gratifying to know that people notice and appreciate the efforts I’ve made,” Rickman added.

The only remaining member of the previous board of directors is Jim Denker. Denker’s experience and knowledge should help the new board, Rickman said.

“In any case, the lines of communication are finally really open and we’re all talking a lot better,” Rickman said.

DeBowes, Hockin, and Fralick were not available for comment.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail

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