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Fire district board loses longtime member

KINGSTON — After nearly 16 years of working to make fire service in the North End as best as it could possibly be, former North Kitsap Fire & Rescue fire commissioner Leon Thomas has put away his suit.

Citing conflicting opinions about how the fire district is operated as his reason for resigning, Thomas’ service ended Aug. 15. His term would have gone through 2007. NKF&R made the announcement this week.

“I am resigning due to differences in the operational philosophy of our fire district and the management of our taxpayers’ dollars,” Thomas wrote in his resignation letter. He was board chairman at the time.

He started as a commissioner for Kitsap County Fire District 14 (Hansville/Eglon) in 1989 and joined NKF&R’s board when the Hansville district merged into NKF&R in 2001.

During his tenure, Thomas was a board member for several national, state and regional fire associations, including the Washington Fire Commissioners Association, Kitsap County Fire Commissioners and National Association of Fire Officials. He often traveled throughout the state to learn more about how other fire districts operated, he said, but believed that his own district was not operating the way it should have been. Major changes Thomas witnessed in his nearly 16 years as a fire commissioner for the North End included the merging of the Hansville and Kingston fire districts, the firefighters union taking an active interest in politics and districtwide improvements through the addition of new stations and upgrades in equipment technology.

However, he feels the next big step for the district is to consolidate North End fire services, merging Poulsbo and North Kitsap Fire & Rescue. Thomas said his fellow commissioners didn’t feel the same way and said he has tried several times during his tenure to propose the idea, but found that the NKF&R board opposed the idea.

“Poulsbo really wanted to merge over the years but there is this definite no from this board,” he said.

Current board chair Gillian Gregory said when Thomas resigned, he made recommendations to the board about improving the process in choosing the next commissioner. Gregory said the suggestions were taken into consideration. Thomas said that during the same meeting, he advised the board to become more educated on their responsibilities as commissioners. However, Gregory said she never heard a word from Thomas about wanting NKF&R to merge with Poulsbo Fire.

“We had never heard a formal proposal from him about that,” she said.

WILL GET POULSBO FIRE INFO FRIDAY A.M.

Thomas’ resignation came too late to fill the vacancy through an election, so the district is required to appoint a replacement by Nov. 15. 

Fire commissioners must be registered voters residing within the district and, elected at large, commissioners serve on behalf of all of the district’s citizens. They must attend all meetings of the board where, by majority vote, the body establishes district policies, enters into contracts, exercises oversight and control over the district’s financial matters and more. 

Fire commissioners’ terms are six years. The vacant position will be on the ballot next in 2007. 

There will be an informational meeting Oct. 6 for those interested in applying for the position. More information is available by calling (360) 297-3619. 

Gregory encourages all citizens interested in being a fire commissioner to attend the Oct. 6 meeting.

“I want people to come be a part of the district and help shape the future of the district,” she said.

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