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New District 5 board member runs against veteran

TALENT — A longtime Jackson County Fire District No. 5 board member will be challenged in the May 16 special election by a person just appointed to a board vacancy.

Bill Robertson, current board chair, holds Seat 3 and has filed for re-election. Terry Helfrich, who was appointed to Seat 4 at a special meeting Tuesday, filed Wednesday to seek Seat 3’s four-year term.

“There’s a group of people that want me to run against him. I’ve been getting calls. There’s some people who just aren’t happy,” said Helfrich. His campaign plans include going door to door and putting up signs.

Board members Cary Halligan, Kevin George and Vicki Purslow voted for Helfrich's appointment. Robertson voted against the appointment.

Robertson, when contacted Thursday, said he had heard previously that Helfrich might run against him. Robertson served 17 years on the board until 2011 and was elected to the body again in 2013.

“I’m not surprised. I’ll get my signs ordered. I was waiting to see what happened before submitting to the Voter’s Pamphlet,” said Robertson. “I will run an active campaign. I would welcome a debate with Terry on how the district is running.”

In the immediate future, Helfrich would like to see the public, firefighters and district staff given the opportunity to offer input on selection of a new chief. Robertson said he’d favor the idea but added it's the board’s decision.

Wendi Brown Creative Partners is conducting a search to identify candidates for the vacancy created when Chief Darin Welburn was terminated in October. Assistant Chief Vince Lockett is serving as interim chief but is not a candidate for the permanent post.

Helfrich was on Phoenix City Council for eight years but did not seek re-election in November. He previously served on the town’s Planning Commission for 12 years and was involved with the Regional Problem Solving initiative for six years.

“I want to support the firefighters who have difficult times on a daily basis,” said Helfrich. “When the alarm goes off, you want men and women who have the support of the community and the board.”

Ken Hull and Kittie Harrison also applied for the Position 4 vacancy. Hull had been a volunteer with the Phoenix Fire Department for 26 years before the town was annexed into the district. Harrison, a Talent resident, is active with the Community Emergency Response Team.

Harrison has filed to run for the Position 4 seat in the May election. Mike Davis, who has served on city of Talent and Phoenix-Talent School District advisory committees, has also filed for Position 4. Purslow, incumbent in Position 3, has filed for re-election. The four-year terms begin July 1. Filing deadline was 5 p.m. Thursday.

In other business, Bruce Emerson was reappointed to the fire district’s Budget Committee. Directors will advertise another opening on the Budget Committee and hope to make a selection at the regular meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, at Fire Station One, 5811 S. Pacific Highway.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.