West Valley ousts fire chief
Meier’s ouster came about 18 months after that of the district’s previous chief, Chuck Eddings, who led the district for 12 years.
Meier was scheduled to retire Thursday, May 1. However, at an emergency mid-April meeting, the board voted 4-0 to terminate his employment involuntarily.
Voting for his dismissal were Chair Rick Mishler and members Gary Brooks, Twila Hill and Connie Crawford Lain. Derrick Ivey did not attend the meeting, but Crawford Lain said he concurred in the decision.
“We had no choice when it came to the health of the district,” she said. “It was an agonizing decision. We worked hard to find a different resolution.”
Meier was serving as deputy chief when Eddings was fired. He went on to secure appointment to the position, initially on an interim level and later on permanently.
“He’s a good man, he’ll do a good job,” Hill said at the time Meier was named chief.
Kevin Clark, the former deputy chief, was appointed interim chief after the board parted ways with Meier.
“We are blessed to have him,” Crawford Lain said of Clark. “He brings a wealth of experience and stability.”
Crawford Lain said Mishler solicited input from members on an individual basis before calling the emergency meeting.
“He wanted to find out where each of them stood on everything that was going on,” she said.
The board proceeded to hold an extensive discussion of Meier’s employment in executive session before returning to open session and voting to fire him. However, it has not aired any of its concerns in public, or even described their nature.
Clark, 56, joined the West Valley district as a division chief in 2010, following 31 years with Marion County Fire District No. 1. He was promoted to deputy chief in October 2012, when Meier was named chief.
Marion County Fire District No. 1 provides emergency service to about 50,000 residents of approximately 80 square miles of unincorporated farm country. It operates out of eight stations with 47 paid medics and firefighters and 75 volunteers.
During his Marion County career, Clark advanced from firefighter/paramedic to captain and eventually battalion chief. Following his retirement, he helped develop an EMS program at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills.
The West Valley board is next scheduled meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the district’s main station in Willamina. It might discuss the recruitment process for a new chief then.
Meanwhile, Clark is continuing to pursue two projects — development of a rural healthcare network and enhancement of the district’s Explorer Program.
The aim of the healthcare network, which carries an estimated startup cost of $110,000, would be to improve outcomes for medically vulnerable populations, strengthen prevention options available in rural areas and develop more cost-effective options. Elements would include patient education, post-discharge care, chronic disease monitoring and primary care services outside the clinic or hospital environment.
The district’s Explorer Program introduces fire service opportunities to youths in the 14 to 20 age bracket. It combines classroom training with practical instruction and volunteer work.
“We have so many things going on,” Clark said. “We’re looking for ways to enhance and improve our effectiveness.”
The fire district coverage area covers 110 square miles and the ambulance service area is about 340 square miles. The district has four ambulances.
Service is provided to Willamina, unincorporated areas of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.