The South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue Regional Fire Authority (RFA) met for the first time on Sunday to establish the authority as a governing body, swear in the RFA board and swear in the new fire chief.
The group met on Sunday because it was Oct. 1, which is the first date the RFA could officially form based on a ballot that was approved by 54.40 percent of voters in the August primary election. The measure consolidated the Lynnwood Fire Department and Snohomish County Fire District 1 into the new RFA.
The new RFA Board consists of the five former Fire District 1 commissioners (David Chan, Jim Kenny, Jim McGaughey, Bob Meador and Richard Schrock) and two Lynnwood City Councilmembers selected by council (Benjamin Goodwin and M. Christopher Boyer). During Sunday’s RFA meeting, Jim Kenny was elected Chair and Benjamin Goodwin was elected Vice Chair.
McGaughey opened the meeting with a few remarks about the history of the RFA. This was not the first time regionalization of fire service was attempted in southern Snohomish County.
“With each attempt to put together a regionalization came awareness of what was really important,” McGaughey said. “To provide the highest level of service to our community at a reasonable cost.”
McGaughey also encouraged cities formerly contracted with Fire District 1 (now contracted with the RFA) to consider joining the RFA. Those cities are Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Brier.
“While we embrace and celebrate the moment of our first meeting, and get down tot he business at hand we can feel proud in the fact that together we made this Regional Fire Authority happen,” McGaughey said.
All board members also thanked District and City of Lynnwood employees for hours of work on creating the RFA.
Chief Bruce Stedman was sworn in and his badge was pinned during the meeting. Fire District 1 announced he was their choice for new fire chief in August. Goodwin and Boyer were also involved in the selection process because their future role on the RFA Board was known.
Stedman said he is humbled and honored for the opportunity to help shape the new RFA.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “I’m here to tell you the view is awesome and our collective future is upon us.”
He said the RFA should play the role of “benevolent big brother,” not just internally but to other fire authorities pursuing a regional model.
“This is a huge opportunity and we need to understand that this is our responsibility,” he said. “We need to make sure we do it right. In order to accomplish this, we will need everyone in true alignment. We all need to be committed to that.”
He added with a laugh that his son is a property owner in Lynnwood, and upon hearing Stedman got the job, his son said, “You work for me now, pal.”
One person offered comments during public comments. Ted Hikel, of Lynnwood, was a city councilmember when the Lynnwood Fire Department was formed. He said he felt like a “father who lost his son.”
Chan responded later saying his approach has been to represent all of Fire District 1’s residents, whether or not they lived in his specific governing region. He said his fellow commissioners have that same attitude and it will continue with Lynnwood added to the RFA.
The RFA will meet for the second time on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
To read Sunday’s full agenda and review associated documents, click here.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate