Eight vie for four seats on Basalt fire board

Staff report
Ed Van Walraven

The Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District is holding its first contested election in more than a decade on Tuesday. Six candidates are vying for three seats with four-year terms, while two candidates are competing for a post with a two-year term.

The election is by mail-in ballot. Completed ballots must be received by the fire district by Tuesday or returned to the El Jebel fire station by 7 p.m. Tuesday. Midvalley residents who believe they live in the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District but didn’t receive a ballot in the mail can call the Basalt Fire Department at 970-704-0675 for assistance.

The first of the profiles are the two candidates for the seat with the two-year term, Leroy Duroux and Barbara Forrest. Duroux was appointed to an opening on the board about one year ago. The fire district’s rules require that the seat be put up for election at the next opportunity. The term is only two years, so the seats remained staggered.

Leroy Duroux

Age: 65

Job: Semi-retired cabinet builder

Area of residence: Willits Lane

Civic/community experience: Served on Basalt High School Design Committee, Field of Dreams for Basalt High School, Basalt and Rural Fire Protection board, Mid Valley Metro District Board, Ruedi Water and Power Authority, Basalt Town Council, mayor of Basalt.

Why should voters re-elect you?

I have served on the fire board for a little over a year as an appointee to fill a vacancy. During this time I have learned a lot about how the district operates and the board functions. The board has been proactive in hiring new staff, recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteers, adding new equipment, and looking at opportunities with other districts to provide the best service possible for our community.

Barbara A. Forrest

Age: 59

Job: Fitter for Medcom (fit/deliver orthopedic devices post surgery)

Area of residence: Unincorporated Eagle County

Civic/community experience: 15 years active EMT volunteer for Basalt Fire/retired, five years as director on the Basalt Library Board, 20-plus years accounting and property management experience (CFO Thunder Construction, nine years — builder of fine homes in Aspen), secretary of the Basalt Fire Volunteers, 11 years.

Why should voters select you?

Transparency: I believe there should be transparency in public boards. Basalt Fire does nothing to make the public aware of how it operates, or how it spends taxpayer dollars. At the board meetings, they do not allow for public comment. On the Basalt Fire website, they post the minutes, often months after the meeting.

Volunteer representation: Recently the board voted to prohibit volunteers from being on the board. I understand the fine line between volunteer and employee, and as a retired member, I hope my past experience as a volunteer will give this perspective to the benefit of the entire department.

Time for an election: Two of the incumbents were appointed, not elected. I don’t believe there has been an election since 2002 when I previously ran against Jim Stryker.

Paid staff: I have concerns that little by little, the volunteers will be replaced with paid staff. I agree we need paid paramedics and administrators, but we should do our best to maintain a strong volunteer force within the department.

Candidates for three seats with four-year terms

Bob Guion

Age: 66

Job: Chairman, Crawford Properties of El Jebel

Area of residence: Old Snowmass

Civic/community experience: Board of Directors, Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District, 2000-2013; volunteer firefighter and fire officer, 1998-2103; Board of Directors, Gateway Metro Special District, 2008 – present; Board of Directors, Gateway Homeowners Association, 2010 – present; Board of Directors, Growing Years, 1998–2001; Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus, 1993-1996.

Why should voters select you?

I believe the Board of Directors’ primary responsibility is to represent the interests of our citizens and taxpayers. In my 12 years on the fire board, my focus was always on providing the highest possible service at the most affordable cost. I’ve fought to keep our taxes as low as possible and resisted any unnecessary growth or spending.

Bill McEnteer

Age: 68

Job: Semi-retired, still volunteer firefighter and wildland-fire logistics manager

Area of residence: Willits Townhomes in Basalt

Experience: Current chairman of the Basalt Emergency Management Council; volunteer with Basalt Fire, in my 12th year; president of Basalt Volunteers for five years; retired after 20 years with Aspen Fire; former president and member of Willits Townhome Association; past chairman and president of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club; past president of the Santa Monica Rugby Club; former director and vice president of the USA Rugby Football Union (governing body for rugby).

Why should voters select you?

It is time for a change in the board of directors of the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District.

The current situation: First election since 2002. Incumbents average over 12 years on the board. All are former government bureaucrats.

To provide first-class service to our families and businesses, I will bring new ideas and a fresh perspective ensuring that recruitment and retention of high-quality volunteers continues. Volunteers comprise 80 percent of our staff. My 25-plus years as a volunteer firefighter/EMS provider help me understand that new programs, particularly in the areas of health and safety, are needed for all Basalt Fire staff.

Change is not easy, but it is time.

Ed Van Walraven

Age: 68 years young

Area of residence: El Jebel/Missouri Heights

Job: Recently retired with a combined total of 30 years as a volunteer firefighter and fire marshal. Also, considered an authority on life safety, fire prevention and fire codes.

Why should you be re-elected?

Our top priorities and goals: protecting the community and ensuring that the fire prevention and suppression arms of the Fire District have the tools necessary to accomplish their mission. Also, implementing an effective fiscal philosophy along with the responsibility of sustainability, these objectives are mainly accomplished by actively pursuing a long-term master plan where continuity is the key. An example of our philosophy would be the scrutiny exhibited by not taking the entire “tax windfall” in 2010, thereby saving taxpayer money.

Our current board has developed as a cohesive group. Over the years we have fostered a mutual trust and respect for each other and have always worked well together. With this approach along with intelligent discussion and outside input where we feel necessary we have successfully accomplished major projects.

Vonda Williams

Age: 65

Job: Medical assistant for Dr. David Borchers

Area of residence: Blue Lake

Civic/community experience: Volunteer Firefighter/EMT for over 40 years; election judge for Eagle County and Town of Basalt Elections; volunteer for Colorado 500 Scholarship Committee for 21-plus years; volunteer phlebotomist for Community Healthfairs; volunteer EMT for multiple sclerosis walks in Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs.

Why should voters select you?

Since there has not been an election for the Basalt Fire District Board in over 12 years, I feel that there has been a lack of representation for the taxpayers. I also feel strong about having term limits in place to keep the Fire District leadership evolving with the community. When there is a lack of variation in representation, then the taxpayers are misrepresented. Being a volunteer for several years myself, I know that the volunteers need to have a voice and be represented also.

Robert O. Woods

Age: 75

Job: Retired after 33 years in major city emergency management.

Area of residence: Fryingpan Valley

Civic/community experience: Member of the Board of Directors, Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District, 10 years; currently serving as president; member, Basalt Emergency Management Committee, five years, an advisory group to the Basalt Town Council on matters of community safety and security; founding member of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, Executive Committee, 15 years, assist in fundraising; being recognized this year for the “River Conservator of the Year” award; founding member, Basalt Kiwanis, president for five years; focus was on Terrific Kids Program, scholarships for high school seniors; member of the Crystal River Chapter Ducks Unlimited, chairman for five years; member of the Summit Circle, Valley View Hospital; member of the Basalt Lions Club.

Why should you be re-elected?

Our current Board of Directors has an outstanding balance of experience and expertise in managing emergency operations. Each of us bring different but related skills to our boardroom. We have experience in major city emergency services management; mayor and town council membership; expertise in life safety, fire prevention and fire codes; and several years of governmental management.

We focus our efforts on fiscal responsibility and the proper care of our staff and volunteers. In 2010, organizations throughout our valley took advantage of a tax windfall and fattened up their budgets. We did not. We used only 50 percent of the increase, saving our taxpayers $334,000. We held to no growth, we simply maintained what existed. We are now offering a second pension plan choice to our members. In time, this plan will result in the savings of several hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

John B. Young

Age: 62

Job: Managing member of Ironbridge Mountain Community and Golf Club

Area of residence: Old Snowmass

Civic/community experience: First town manager of Snowmass Village (nine years); former assistant airport manager; trails director; road and bridge manager of Pitkin County; Aspen Junior Hockey manager, current board member Basalt and Rural Fire District (nine years); served on the Aspen School District’s financial advisory board, (two years); organized a competitive American Legion baseball team made up of Roaring Fork Valley youth from all schools.

Why should you be re-elected?

The staff and volunteers of our district represent some of the most dedicated and competent people I have ever met. Their sacrifice to protect our community is something we should all be proud of. The current board recognizes this, and has tried to provide them with the best training and equipment available, in order to allow them to safely and efficiently perform their job.

I believe that the general public gives our organization high marks for the service we provide. We have achieved excellence without taking advantage of the “windfall” property tax opportunities that were available to us during the boom years, preferring to live on what was necessary. This allowed us to weather the storm during the recent recession without compromising service.

We have created a model program in affordable housing, for five of our first responders, by creating housing attached to two of our fire stations. This decision has saved valuable time in responding to life threatening events.