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Joseph Budge comes to Woodburn Fire following 29-year career at Portland fire department

SUBMITTED PHOTO: ROBB GRAMZOW - Joseph Budge has accepted a conditional offer of employment as Woodburn's fire chief.
Joseph Budge, a longtime employee of Portland Fire & Rescue, will be Woodburn's new fire chief.

Budge accepted a conditional offer of employment from the Woodburn Fire District's Board of Directors last Wednesday. His start date is tentatively set for early November.

Budge has been with Portland Fire & Rescue since 1988, serving in positions including Training Captain and Battalion. He is currently Deputy Chief of the Medical Services & Training division.

Simultaneous to his time with Portland's fire department, he's served as a volunteer EMT for Vernonia Ambulance Service. And at the beginning of his career, he was a volunteer firefighter for the Hillsboro Fire Department.

He has an associate degree in fire protection technology from Portland Community College and a bachelor's degree in fire service administration from Eastern Oregon University.

The fire board has been working to find a replacement for Chief Paul Iverson since he announced his retirement in April. Iverson has been chief of the district since 2010.

Iverson originally intended to retire in June, but has stayed on as chief throughout the hiring process.

The Fire District contracted with the Prothman Company, an executive recruitment firm based in Washington, to find Iverson's replacement.

The board announced two candidates for the position late August. The board was considering Budge along with Dennis Hoke, fire chief of the Illinois Valley Fire District in Cave Junction, Oregon.

Hoke was unable to participate in final interviews in Woodburn last week due to staffing issues related to the Chetco Bar Fire that's taking place in his district. The Woodburn fire board decided to proceed with interviews without Hoke.

Woodburn fire board President Charlie Piper said the board didn't want to extend the hiring process longer than it needed to, so it proceeded with interviews without Hoke.

"We felt Budge satisfied our needs in so many ways that we decided to move forward," Piper said. "It allowed us to move forward with the whole process, and it allows Paul (Iverson) to move on to the next phase of his life."

Piper said Budge underwent a thorough vetting process last week, which began with an open house on Tuesday night that allowed members of the public to meet Budge and fill out opinion cards with thoughts on the candidate.

On Wednesday, Budge participated in interviews with three different interview panels. The interview panels included fire district personnel, members of the public, members of the business community, and representatives from the city of Woodburn, the Canby Fire District, the city of Gervais, and the Hubbard Fire District.

"We wanted to get all of the people who had a stake in the decision," Piper said. "We wanted their input from a relationship standpoint, from a professional standpoint, and they brought hiring expertise, too."

After the interviews, the panelists discussed with the fire board their feedback. "It wasn't all butterflies and rainbows," Piper said of the feedback. "It was thorough, very thorough."

Ultimately, what made the board decide to offer Budge the job was his experience in the administration of Portland Fire & Rescue. "He brings to the table structure and the understanding of a large, career-based department," Piper said.

The process is not over yet — the fire district needs to finalize a contract for Budge, and Budge will have to go over that contract. However, Piper said he and the board are happy with the decision.

"We're excited to have Chief Budge be our next fire chief," Piper said.

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