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Fire board ready to make Wayne its chief

July 3, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Commissioner Cathy Kruze, a member of the Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District, wasn't ready with the surprise recommendation and a subsequent motion to select Interim Chief John as the district's new fire chief. He has been interim chief for several months and replaces Don Adams, who resigned in November.

Commissioner Larry Becker and other members of the board said they were not going to proceed with the hiring process with the lone applicant for the job, a person who was interviewed by each of the commissioners via Skype, an Internet viewing in person site.

"He doesn't meet our requirements as a certified fire fighter for Florida," Becker said.

Article Photos

John Wayne

He went on to say that he had talked with John Wayne the week before and that Wayne said he was interested in becoming the department's full-time chief, a position he said he wasn't interested in seeking two months ago.

While the motion was on the table and a second had been made, Commissioner Kruze said she was surprised and that although she admired Wayne, she had questions of him that she would like to make before she was ready to vote to make him the department's chief.

Then Commissioner Linda Carter chimed in and said she, too, had questions she would like to ask Wayne.

Commissioner Jackie Janis said she was happy that Wayne had agreed to become fulltime chief.

Richard Pringle, the board's attorney reminded the five members on the board that there was a motion and it had to be acted on or withdrawn.

Becker called for the vote and Kruze and Carter voted "with reservation" while David Adams, Larry Becker and Janis voted yes to select or hire Wayne.

That meant that the motion carried and that Kruse and Wayne would have the opportunity to sit down with Wayne and ask questions, in another words, the continuation of a hiring process.

Becker noted that when the district advertised, they received the lone application. He said that other fire districts were not getting applicants that were qualified either.

Wayne, a battalion chief, and now waiting for final approval of the board before he becomes fulltime chief, has been at the district for several years and is considered by those in administration and in the ranks to be the better qualified of any candidate that may have applied. He has a master's degree and is a certified Florida firefighter, two requirements the district board had made when it listed the opening.

Not one commissioner had anything positive to say about the interview they had with the one person who had applied for the job. Comments made by commissioners were that the applicant didn't fit the requirements to "we don't need him here."

Chairman Becker told his fellow board members that he has talked top John Wayne the week before the meeting with the wish that he would accept "being selected" as the new fire chief.

"I'd want to sit down with him a talk about a contract," Becker said.

Becker told Kruze that it was not proper to ask Wayne her questions that night during the meeting. Becker said that by the July 30, if all agreed, Wayne would be the new fire chief.

During the meeting, it was announced that the district had hired a new finance manager.

Larry Tibbs comes to the district with experience in fire rescue departments and operations as the director of finance and IT with two municipal operations the City of Palm Bay and the City of Greenacres.

Tibbs also has experience as the director of finance and administration with Palm Beach County's Transit Dept., a special district utility authority, and also has completed 23 years with the U.S. Air Force as a financial officer.

The commissioners also agreed to set up budget workshops with the following dates: July 16, July 30, Aug. 8, and Aug. 27. All workshops will be held at Station 104 at 16th St. and Sunshine Blvd., and the public is invited to attend.

The final budget hearing will be Sept. 12 at 5:01 when it will officially set it millage rate.

Richard Pringle told the group that the legislative bill to give special districts the right to come up with alternative ways for funding, such as assessment fees, had been signed by Gov. Scott.

He said Rep. Matt Caldwell of Lehigh Acres has agreed to come to the next meeting to discuss how the fire district could use the legislation. The fire board meets always on the last Tuesday evening of the month, beginning at 6 p.m. at Station 104 on 16th St. and Sunshine Blvd.

Before the meeting actually started, Capt. Martin McDowell gave "stork pins" to two members of the fire department for helping to deliver a baby "along the side of the road" recently.

McDowell said Paramedic Justin Diaz, was also a part of the three men-team who helped to deliver the little girl. EMT Troy Van Dyck and Paramedic Bradley LaBar were at the meeting and McDowell presented them with "stork pins" which drew applause from the board, the staff and those visiting the meeting including other firefighters and EMTs.

"It happens from time to time," Capt. McDowell later said. "I think when our men do an excellent job, they should be recognized." McDowell said the baby was healthy and was taken to HealthPark Medical Center.

Richard Pringle, board attorney, who attends every meeting, also told the group that former Lehigh Board Chairman Jeff Berndt, had been recently hired as chief of the Iona Fire Dept.

Berndt served for several years on the Lehigh board and had decided not to seek reelection last November.



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