Two candidates in competition for fire board position
The Crook County Fire and Rescue Board chair will face competition in the upcoming special districts election from a recent department volunteer and Redmond firefighter.
Jim Dean, who is reaching the conclusion of his first term on the board, is filed for re-election with hopes of improving employee/management communications and improving the level of staffing for agency.
Gary Abrams seeks the position with plans to focus on fiscal responsibility, firefighter education and training, and improving board transparency within the department.
Both Dean and Abrams have a history with Crook County Fire and Rescue that extends into the prior decade. Dean joined the agency in 1989 as a firefighter/medic and ascended the chain of command and served as deputy chief for around 11 years. He retired in 2012 and was elected to the board in 2015.
Abrams spent 20 years as a volunteer firefighter with a small coastal department before deciding to further his education in Crook County. After receiving a scholarship from CCFR in 2002, he was a full-time student and volunteer for the agency for the next three years while acquiring two AAS degrees.
"I continued to volunteer at Crook County as I began to search for a full-time position as a firefighter paramedic," he said.
He was eventually hired by Redmond Fire and Rescue, where he worked full-time while volunteering for CCFR. He stepped away from the volunteer work in 2011 "when I realized that I wasn't able to provide the time that I personally felt I should give as a volunteer."
If elected, Abrams first hopes to "encourage financial/fiscal responsibility so that I can answer any member of the public when asked a question." He also wants to find new ways and relationships to educate and train firefighters and EMTs.
"Although not all situations can be exactly planned, the best possible education and training should remain at the forefront of any fire department, in my opinion," he remarked.
Organizational transparency is another goal for Abrams.
"Any message from the board should be passed along to all members of the department," he said. "All aspects of the board, within the legal limits, should be known throughout the membership of Crook County Fire," he said.
Abrams also hopes to help repair the divide between staff and district leadership. The Crook County Firefighters Association union filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against CCFR district leaders, claiming ongoing instances of anti-union behavior, which resulted in a three-day hearing and ruling against the district. The district has recently filed objections to that ruling after learning that the adjudicator for the hearing was offered a job by the union's law firm after the ruling was filed.
"I have read the ULP, and I feel that the hearing itself was handled in the best way the judge could," Abrams said. "In terms of the actions that lead up to a ULP investigation being made necessary, I have mixed emotions. I feel that bridging the gap between the line personnel and administrative personnel is imperative."
Dean feels that communications between staff and district leaders have eroded since the formation of the union and during the process of resolving the ULP. He believes part of that breakdown is the result of the district's attorneys advising leadership not to communicate with union leaders about the complaint.
"We have lost communication within our department," he said.
Dean went on to say that he supports a union.
"If I was a young firefighter and paramedic working in any department this size, I would want my basic rights in writing," he said. "I think a union is great."
In addition to restoring a rapport with CCFR staff, Dean wants to focus heavily on increasing the number of firefighters and paramedics the agency employs. He pointed out that early goals of improving district funding and infrastructure have been met and now "every penny we can get our hands on is going toward staffing."
In particular, Dean hopes the efforts will enable the district to fully staff the Juniper Canyon station.
"We have got to get that staffed," he remarked.