By Scott Unger • Of the News-Register • 

Reed Godfrey hired as fire district chief

[Updated Dec. 4, 9 a.m.]

The McMinnville Fire District has a new leader following a unanimous vote of the board of commissioners last week to hire Reed Godfrey as chief.

A McMinnville High School graduate, Godfrey returns to the city where he started his career as a firefighter after 25 years working for Salem Fire.

“To be able to come back and lead the new fire district in the community I grew up is an honor,” Godfrey told the News Register.

Godfrey was identified as one of three finalists during the interview process in October and was officially hired yesterday. The district board agreed to hold a swearing in ceremony for family, friends and members of the public in the near future.

He will have a base salary of $152,000, which will be reviewed annually, according to his employment agreement.

Godfrey rose to Deputy Chief of Operations during his tenure in Salem before leaving the department earlier this year to pursue a chief position.

Godfrey said he is excited to get to work on the district's priorities, specifically improving response time and finding candidates to join the department.

“Staffing is a big priority, response times, both within the district and as a county, those are things that we're going to tackle early on” Godfrey said.

He acknowledged it is a challenging time for recruitment, especially competing with bigger departments and said he will work with the high school and Chemeketa Community College on fire programs to encourage area youth to pursue careers as first responders.

“I think we have a great opportunity there to work with some local kids,” Godfrey said.

The hire comes seven months after voters approved the creation of a new district and three months after long-time Chief Rich Leipfert retired. Operations Chief Amy Hanifan has been the interim leader since Leipfert's departure.

Godfrey called it an “exciting time” to lead, as the new district splits from the city and begins work on the promises made to voters.

“I appreciate everybody's support,” Godfrey said. “We'll work hard every day to provide the service they deserve.”

The district's plan to separate from the city at the turn of the year is proceeding, with intergovernmental agreements approved by the district and city to transfer all assets and liabilities in the coming weeks.

“All of the agreements are in place to do all of the transition that we need to do,” City Manager Jeff Towery told the News Register.

The transition includes the First Street fire station, all fire department employees, vehicles, equipment and the lease on the training tower site (which the city can terminate with two years notice), according to city attorney Walt Gowell.

Towery said the process has been tedious but mostly went as expected.

“It's just a lot of details,” he said. “I spent about an hour signing the titles over for every piece of rolling stock.”

The district received a $4.2 million advance from the city to cover operations for the first six months and will begin paying that back once property tax dollars are collected.

The district will continue to use city human resources, information technology, finance and administrative assistance on a contract basis as needed for the next six months, according to Gowell.


From Star Hose Company to Mac Fire District

1874: The first McMinnville Fire Department - known at the time as Star Hose Company #1 - is started by a group of local businessmen.

1916: Ivan Pearson becomes the first paid fire chief. That same year the department purchased its first motorized fire engine.

1924: A second motorized fire engine is purchased for $13,000. The 1924 American LaFrance is still operational and resides in the fire museum at the First Street station.

1948: McMinnville voters passed a levy dedicating funds to the hiring of firefighters.

1965: Ivan Pearson retires after 49 years as chief. Jerry Smith hired as new chief.

1974: McMinnville Fire celebrates its 100th anniversary.

1986: McMinnville voters pass a 20-year levy to build a new fire station. The station at First and Baker Streets opens two years later.

1989: Bruce Caldwell hired as chief.

1994: Implemented awards program for volunteer firefighters.

1998: Jay Lilly named fire chief.

2000: Fire training tower constructed.

2008: Rich Leipfert hired as chief.

2023: Voters approve the dissolution of rural services and the creation of the McMinnville Fire District.

All information is according to the City of McMinnville.


Local Yokel

This is a great hire for the leadership of the district.

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