Volunteer groups work on own timetables


Crooked River Ranch Roundup

Readers of this column seeking up-to-date news on what has happened recently, or is forecasted to happen at Crooked River Ranch might bear in mind that the Ranch and its various component units and businesses are largely managed by volunteers, including some with limited experience in what they are managing.

Also, a good many volunteers are employed full or part time in other businesses and don’t have a lot of time left over for the Ranch functions for which they have volunteered or have been elected to fulfill. The rest of the volunteers generally are retired from a more active life and reluctant to reactivate a full-time schedule.

This can result in fairly long times for volunteer managers to produce results. A case in point is the Crooked River Ranch Fire Department Special District, which has an elected volunteer board of directors, which manages fire department operations separately from the Ranch Board of Directors and without the latter’s oversight. The Ranch Water Company has its own board too and operates about the same as CRR Fire.

On Jan. 6, the CRR Fire District Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Fire Chief Tim McLaren, explaining at the time, “Chief McLaren determined this to be a time to change his relationship with the district and the board wishes him all of the best as he continues his career.”

Rumors abounded at the time that the board’s bland announcement masked another reason for the board to accept McLaren’s resignation. The fire board also appointed Mark Wilson, a volunteer member of the Ranch Fire Department, as interim chief, a position which Wilson retains today, over two months later.

When queried this past week about how long the Ranch Fire Board might take to appoint a permanent new chief, Fire Board President Bob Bengston said it could take another couple of months. He added that the board is still developing a position description of the fire chief function before beginning to recruit candidates for the position. So how soon the fire department will have a new chief remains virtually the same as was reported at the February fire board meeting.

Bengston also emphasized that Wilson’s performance as interim fire chief has been very satisfactory and resulted in no reduction in operations of the Ranch Fire District. He did not say why the Ranch Fire Board doesn’t just change Wilson’s status from interim to permanent chief after what amounts to a probationary term as chief in excess of two months, as would be the norm for other for-profit or nonprofit organizations in the private sector.

Doing so would also reduce the risk of Wilson’s being recruited away by some other fire department to be its chief or Wilson seeking a more permanent position on his own. Wilson did not intimate any thoughts along those lines when contacted by the Pioneer.

So it boils down to the fact that volunteers with limited experience and time are often responsible for management of many Ranch organizations. That contributes to protracted planning, decision-making and action by those organizations.

Ranch homeowners association members show remarkable tolerance for that as a condition of living in the community. Furthermore, Crooked River Ranch is thriving by traditional measures of community health in Oregon, so the system apparently is working.