A veteran Jackson County Fire District 5 board member was re-elected Tuesday to the Position 3 seat in a race against a former Phoenix city councilor who said people wanted to see change on the board because they didn’t agree with the incumbent.
Incumbent Bill Robertson had 1,432 votes, 60 percent of the total, while challenger Terry Helfrich polled 944 votes, or 40 percent, in results issued at 11 p.m.
In the race for Position 4, Kittie Harrison was leading Mike Davis 1,549 votes to 691 votes, or 69 to 31 percent.
Helfrich had been appointed to a Position 4 vacancy in February, but chose to challenge Robertson.
“(The voters) know me," Robertson said. "I have been there a long time. I actively campaigned. I’m not sure Terry actively campaigned. I had some great help and support in the process.”
Elections are always uncertain in small towns with small voter numbers, said Robertson.
“I’m delighted to continue on,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and I’m glad that we are retaining the administrative institutional knowledge that I have.”
Robertson has served on the board for 21 years. He criticized Helfrich in the Voters Pamphlet for not revealing who had asked him to seek the position. Robertson was removed from the board of directors chairmanship in March by a vote of other directors. Helfrich was on Phoenix City Council for eight years but didn’t seek re-election in November.
Harrison is active in the Ashland-based Community Emergency Response Team. Davis is owner of SOS Plumbing in Talent.
“I think people have just gotten to know me,” said Harrison, who has lived in Talent for 2½ years. “I’ve been involved with quite a few things, and I think that's how people got to know me and I guess they trust me and what I do. This makes me feel really good.”
Harrison wants the board to focus on directing the chief, watching finances and setting policy.
Board Chairwoman Vicki Purslow was unopposed for Position 5 and had 1,747 votes in the initial report.
Board members will face one less challenge with the announcement Tuesday that Charles Hanley, former chief of the Rodeo Hercules Fire District in California, has been selected to fill the vacant chief’s position permanently.
In addition to removing Robertson as chair, the board recently terminated its longtime legal counsel. Former Chief Darin Welburn, who was fired in October 2016, has filed a tort claim against the district alleging violations of contract and state and federal laws. Board members also have said that some staff are looking at positions elsewhere because of a lack of stability, including frequent turnover of board membership.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.