March 30, 2019 — Western Lane Ambulance District (WLAD) and Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue (SVFR) held another joint session on Wednesday, as the board discussed the official hiring of Michael Schick as chief over both organizations, as well as the resignation of SVFR board member Wood Woodbury and the voting in of Alan Burns as an interim member.
“We received the resignation notice of Director Woody Woodbury, which is position five for the district and was set to expire on June 30,” SVFR Board President Ron Green said. “But for reasons personal to him, he chose to resign.”
Woodbury, who was elected to the board in 2015, officially gave his resignation letter due to a perceived conflict of interest with the Florence City Council, on which he has served as councilor since 2018. Woodbury had three months left in his tenure at SVFR.
The possible conflict stemmed from a controversial vote surrounding the Florence Urban Renewal Agency (FURA), which would clarify how members of the FURA board are appointed. The FURA board is made up of a number of members from various taxing districts around the region, including the mayor of Florence, two Florence City Councilors and representatives from special districts, such as SVFR, Port of Siuslaw and the Siuslaw Public Library District.
Woodbury was in favor of the city’s recommended solution for the selection process, which would give the Florence mayor final approval over all FURA board members, including special district members.
However, other city councilors feared mayors could potentially overrule special district recommendations, thereby diminishing the special districts’ voice in FURA and open the door to possible corruption. They requested more stringent wording that would further protect special district recommendations to the board.
Because Woodbury sits on both the city council and SVFR, a letter from a community member submitted to the SVFR board essentially argued that he could not protect the independence of special districts while at the same time solidifying the city’s proposed selection process.
“Although I do feel that I can vote on this matter objectively, I find it necessary to make a decision that I hope will satisfy both points of view,” Woodbury wrote in his resignation letter. “I therefore have decided to resign from the SVFR Board of Directors effective immediately as of March 17, 2019. I believe in my three years I have always worked to protect the best interests of the fire district and have enjoyed my service to the community it serves. Please accept this resignation and know I will continue to observe, with interest, the growth of the combined organizations.”
This left the SVFR board with the task of filling Woodbury’s vacant seat.
During discussion, Green said, “I view Alan Burns as a great candidate for the interim position. I’m sure everyone knows Alan — former city councilor, former mayor, long-time small business owner in this community, and a very active person. Alan is a little more known in the community, and also widely connected to the needs of the community, compared to the other two candidates who are running for the office.”
Director John Carnahan initially questioned Burns’ appointment, asking if they should instead look to the last election, held in 2017, to find an interim replacement for Woodbury.
“We’re representing the taxpayers of our district,” Carnahan said. “I don’t know who got more votes, it’s just one of those things that make sense to me that we would go back and look at who got the most votes.”
However, during the meeting, board members were unsure who had run in the last election.
According to the Siuslaw News’ records, SVFR’s last election, which was held in 2017, saw Crystal Farnsworth losing 46.95 percent of the vote to Director Ned Hickson’s 52.91 percent, and Marvin Tipler losing 46.48 percent of the vote to Green’s 53.29 percent.
“I think considering we’re only talking about a three-month window, and I also know that Alan has a proven record of community service. He’s familiar with emergency services. He understands how boards work. [Burns] would be a knowledgeable fit to put in right away, as opposed to trying to go back and find someone,” Hickson said. “If it was a longer period, like a year, that would have tremendous impact, I’d say it would be a good idea. But I would support Alan as an interim.”
Carnahan agreed, and the four remaining SVFR board members voted unanimously to install Burns in the interim position.
“I think we need to acknowledge that Woody has been on the board for an extended period of time, and we need a letter of thank you,” Carnahan said.
Green agreed, stating, “He certainly has served the district well, and we appreciate the commitment he’s made.”
In other news from the meeting, Interim Chief Director Steve Abel said that all the background and psychological checks for Michael Schieck had “come back clean,” and that papers officially approving the hire could be signed.
“I’ve approved the employment agreement and I will gladly execute this tonight and welcome you to Western Lane and Siuslaw Valley,” Green said.
“Thank you, I really appreciate that,” said Schieck, who was sitting in the audience with his wife Diane. “We are looking forward to making this our home.”
Schieck will take over for Abel in the coming weeks.
Finally, it was decided that SVFR and WLAD would hold joint meetings for the foreseeable future, deciding to officially meet the fourth Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for April 25 at the SVFR Main Station, 2625 Highway 101 in Florence.