East County fire protection board to expand with Tuesday's vote

Friday, April 2, 2010

After Tuesday's election, two new members will be inducted onto the East County Fire Protection District board of directors, ending its years as a three-member panel.

The newest board members will increase the panel's total to five, which the board president and the department's fire chief say will allow the protection district to serve the community better.

"With a three-member board all you have to do is get two people to side with each other and the third is a lame duck. With five, even if two of them are real strong on an idea, it still takes a majority," fire chief Dwayne Kirchoff said. "There'll be more views and more input."

After a recent reorganization of the board and suggestions from the East County district community -- which consists of Egypt Mills, Oriole and Hanover -- members voted to expand the board.

Three men are vying for the two seats, including a former East County fire district captain, a former firefighter and a professor with years of budget management experience.

Bruce Hanebrink, an adjunct government professor at Southeast Missouri State University who's working on his dissertation for his doctorate in political science, said a five-member panel will allow the county to be more widely represented.

Having a master's degree in public administration and experience managing departmental budgets at Southeast will make him a good fit for the board, Hanebrink said.

The board is responsible for organizing the district's budget, working through contract negotiations and appointing a chief and assistant chief.

"As a department director at Southeast, I had to make hard choices, and sometimes those were unpopular choices. I've been through the mill on making decisions," Hanebrink said. "I thought it was about time to put some of my experience to work."

Former East County firefighter John Simmons said even though his arthritis doesn't allow him to be a part of the crew anymore, he still wants to do what he can to serve his community.

"I've owned a business, and I've served on other boards before," he said.

If elected, Simmons said, he would like to keep a focus on what he says the board has already done well -- giving taxpayers the best return on their money.

Board members have "done an excellent job," Simmons said. "I want to see them stay that way."

Norman Goehman, a former board member and one of the district's first captains, said he has never lost interest in the fire department. He's run unsuccessfully to get on the board during previous elections.

A five-member board, Goehman said, means there may be fewer conflicts of interest to hold back an important decision.

"Everyone's going to have a conflict of interest at some point, but it's less likely with five than with three," he said. "You'll gain knowledge and input from two more people."

His experience as a firefighter and knowledge of running a small excavating business, he said, have helped him understand how to prioritize expenditures.

"You always want to stay involved with something you helped start," Goehman said. "It's always been a part of my life, and I want to give back to the community that's been good to me."

Current board president Pamela Allen, who has served for three years, hopes the newest members can bring a mixture of work experience and decision-making skills to the board. Additional input on issues such as updating equipment, training facilities and prioritizing budget items will be nice to have, she said.

"Our ultimate goal is to take care of the community. With three, it's been wonderful, everyone brings a lot of information and comes prepared," Allen said. "But it'll be nice to have that five and that extra input to make sure everything is taken care of."



Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

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