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Position 4 race heats up for Bainbridge fire commission
The candidates who aspire to hold the Position 4 seat on the Bainbridge Island Fire Department agree that the department is in a state of change.
To continue to protect the people properly, they say, there must be changes made in the way the organization as a whole is run.
The issues dominating the election discussions are fire station manning, departmental fairness and the responsible handling of the budget. The candidates for the position are Eileen A. McSherry and William “Bill” Ruddick. The position carries with it a six-year term.
Eileen A. McSherry is a long-time Bainbridge resident who currently serves as manager of Human Resources for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue. She has served in senior management positions for the Social Security Administration and worked in Labor and Employee Relations for the U.S. Navy.
“I didn’t think I would be wanting to do this at first,” McSherry said of her decision to pursue the position. “I have the skill set for it, and now that I have the background in fire administration I can see where I would be able to provide a good service for the community. I have the time, and I have the skill set and I believe in public service. Being part of the community is important to me.”
McSherry said that the biggest issues facing the department now are disaster preparedness, the availability and training of local first responders and the proper manning of all island stations.
“We have a very unique location being an island,” she said. “It makes us more vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster.”
McSherry intends, if elected, to review the disaster response procedures that exist within the department to ensure they are fully effective.
On the subject of first responders, McSherry said that new trends in emergency response will require greater training and preparedness on the part of all first responders, and we don’t have enough of them who actually live on the island.
“Emergency medical care in the future is geared more toward providing the most effective treatment at the onset rather than unnecessarily transporting them [the patient] to a hospital,” she said.
McSherry also said she believes that the role of the volunteer firefighters needs to be more emphasized.
“We’ve transitioned to a career fire department,” she said. “There needs to be a more balanced opportunity for us to have people on-island who can respond.”
McSherry went on to say that the proper manning of Station 23, located on NE Phelps Road, would greatly increase the department’s ability to assist citizens in that area if it were properly manned.
“I do believe that how the Phelps station is staffed should be a concern,” she said. “The input of the community is important in that.”
According to McSherry, although her opponent is technically qualified for the job there exists the opportunity for a major conflict of interest due to his personal relationship with a member of he department.
“He is the father of a firefighter on the Bainbridge Island department,” she said of Ruddick. “I’m very concerned that he would need to recuse himself from many major decisions like staffing. I find that to be a big concern.”
William “Bill” Ruddick has lived on the island for almost 30 years. He has worked as a controller, general manager and vice president in several large corporations and has been a consultant for more than 150 companies in 10 different countries. He is a former president of the National Wood Window and Door Association as well as a board member and Vice President of Accelerate Kitsap, past president and board member of the Sunset Hills Water Association and a volunteer for Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce.
“The role, I think, of the commissioners is not only to ensure that the fire department have the facilities they need but to truly communicate the need and what is needed to the public,” Ruddick said. “And I haven’t seen much of that being done.”
Ruddick said that his objectives, if elected, will include efforts to renew the volunteer program on Bainbridge, thus keep departmental costs down and enhance the ability of first responders to cover the changing variety of emergency situations around the island.
According to Ruddick, the average age of the citizens on Bainbridge Island is 47. He says that the aging demographic creates an issue for first responders because of the increased likelihood of personal accidents and falls. He also claims that nearly 30 percent of the emergency calls made from island citizens are dual calls, meaning at least two incidents occurring simultaneously.
Ruddick said that increased participation in the volunteer program would alleviate some of that burden.
“You’ve got 50 percent of the people in an older segment, that creates the potential for more emergency calls,” he said. He went on to say that the fire department needs to be prepared for additional traffic related incidents as the island roads become more congested periodically throughout the day with the arrival of the Seattle ferry.
“There’s a potential there for accidents and people getting injured,” he said.
In response to McSherry’s concerns about possible conflicts of interest, Ruddick claims that his son’s occupation is a non-issue as the structure of the fire department itself prevents any sort of undue favoritism that may come from the level of the commission from affecting the average firefighters.
“I thought about that myself,” he said. “Anything that I do up here [at the commission level] is not going to affect that person. This is like a board of directors rather than operational.”
Ruddick maintained that his business expertise would prove highly beneficial in organizing and evaluating the policies of the department, and that it is the job of the officers and chiefs to handle any personnel or training issues that might arise.
“It’s not the job of the commission to tell the department how to do the job,” he said. “They’re the pros. It’s our job to get it so they can do their job well and then do some monitoring.”
Eileen A. McSherry
Occupation: Manager of Human Resources for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue
Education: She holds two masters degrees from Seattle University, one in Public Administration the other in Counseling.
Previously held elected position: None.
Web address: Prefers to be emailed directly at email@example.com.
Community service: Founding member and award-winning mediator of the Intergovernmental Mediation Consortium, past mediator on behalf of the Kitsap County Dispute Resolution Center and served on the board of the swim club.
Fun fact: McSherry is an accomplished open water swimmer.
William “Bill” Ruddick
Occupation: Business consultant
Education: He holds to degrees from the University of Puget Sound, one in Business Administration and the other in Economics Community Service.
Previously held elected position: None.
Web address: Prefers to be emailed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community service: Board member and vice president of Accelerate Kitsap; past president and board member of Sunset Hills Water Association; volunteer for Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce.
Fun fact: Ruddick is an avid chess player, an interest he first began to explore in high school.