Three candidates look to fill outgoing Fire District 3 commissioner Mike Gawley’s seat this November.
Duane Chamlee, Jeff Nicholas, and Sean Ryan filed for position 1, a 6-year seat, that oversees the Sequim-area fire district that stretches from eastern Port Angeles to Western Jefferson county.
The top two-vote-getters in the Aug. 3 primary move on to the Nov. 2 general election.
Gawley, a retired Federal Aviation Administration support specialist and computer programmer, said via email that after seven years, “I have decided it’s time to back away and spend more time with family and hobbies.”
“Also, new board members often bring new perspectives, and hopefully that will be good for the department,” he said.
Gawley retired in 2005 and shortly thereafter moved to Sequim and became a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
Fire commissioners appointed him in February of 2014 to a vacant seat, and he was later elected to serve the position through the end of this year.
Of his and the board’s accomplishments, Gawley said, “During my time on the board we selected a new chief, brought replacement assistant chiefs on board, hired additional firefighter and paramedics, upgraded equipment, initiated a Low Acuity unit, and developed policies to standardize and improve services.
He added that training sessions were increased and facilities at the district’s training center were improved.
“Also, through prudent fiscal management and community support, the department is now on sound financial ground for the foreseeable future,” Gawley said.
On what’s next: “I plan to return to ‘retirement mode’ and enjoy the benefits of living in this wonderful corner of the country,” he said.
“I hope to continue to monitor developments in the department, but will no longer spend sleepless nights pondering difficult decisions.”
Chamlee and his wife moved to Sequim two-and-a-half years ago after retiring from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Prior to his career, he enlisted for three years in the U.S. Army and served as a combat medic in the 82nd Airborne Division.
He spent 43 years in fire service including five years as a volunteer firefighter, and 38 years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and retiring as a Deputy Chief for Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department.
“I feel I have the necessary aptitude and abilities to serve as a commissioner having served as a firefighter and management including as a contract city fire chief,” Chamlee said.
“I am currently, and have been since its inception, a member of the IAFF Local 2881 and have attended meetings as both labor and management,” he said.
Chamlee said he feels it’s the commission’s responsibility to provide the safest working environment for all members of the district and the best service available to the citizens of the district consistent with fiscal integrity.
As for his top issue/concern, Chamlee said he feels the district is well run and he wants to “continue to help provide progressive leadership.”
Nicholas and his wife moved to Sequim in 2016 after many years visiting the area.
He retired in 2017 from FLIR Systems, a manufacturer of advanced electro-optic camera systems as Business Development Executive, specializing in the capture and ongoing customer support of contracts involving large- and small-scale governmental Maritime Sensor System Programs.
Prior, he served as a naval submarine officer for 30 years and retired as a captain in 2008.
Since 2018, he has served as a volunteer firefighter/EMT and helped with COVID-19 food distribution and mass vaccination efforts in Carrie Blake Community Park.
At the encouragement of colleagues and community leaders, Nicholas said he felt led to run because of his leadership, inter-agency governmental experience and strategic and short-term planning and budgeting experience could help the district. He’s also been endorsed by the Fire Fighters Union IAFF 2933.
As for what he sees are the district’s top issues, Nicholas said with the area growing rapidly the district must develop “a long-term, fiscally responsible strategic plan that will accommodate the increasing need for emergency services by our citizens in an area where transportation distances are often very long and tie up personnel for extended periods, this is especially true in the arena of emergency medical services.”
Nicholas added that the plan “must address the organizational structure, personnel, equipment and infrastructure requirements in a realistic, forward looking and fiscally responsible manner.”
“We must make the best and highest use of the citizens’ tax dollars and seek to augment those funds with grants from other levels of government, including Federal sources whenever possible,” he said.
Ryan and his family have lived in the area for 26 years and for the last 10 years he’s owned and operated ServiceMaster Restore. He served as a volunteer firefighter for eight years and maintains that Fire District 3’s line staff is the best on the peninsula.
As for why he’s running, Ryan said he seeks “better leadership and transparency.”
He’s inspired to run for a commissioner seat again because, “If you’re tired of how things are going, put your name on the ballot; it made sense to me.”
In a previous candidate statement, Ryan wrote that the “public needs to be informed of the purchases and the taxes (the district is) asking for as well as the administrative structure that these taxes pay for.”
Ryan wrote that he saw changes within the district that cost money that should have more control.
He reiterated that transparency is his top issue and that the district should do a better job of allocating resources. Continuing from his previous candidate statement, Ryan said he finds similarities between running a business and a fire district and to ensure the public’s investment is worth it.