As of Wednesday, April 13, Larson is filling both the role of acting fire chief and assistant fire chief.
Diane Bower, who was previously the PFPD fire chief, has gone on leave and will officially retire July 15.
The decision was announced by the PFPD board after reconvening following an executive session during its regular April 12 meeting.
“This board has decided to offer Chief Larson the position of acting chief with all the powers and responsibilities that go along with it,” PFPD Board Chair LeRoy Lattin explained after reconvening the regular meeting. “He has accepted.”
No motion was made or vote taken on the matter following the executive session.
While Colorado’s Open Meetings Law, which is part of the state’s Sunshine Laws, allows governmental bodies to call executive sessions for things such as personnel matters, it does not allow boards to adopt any proposed rule, regulation, policy or position, or make formal action, within that closed meeting. Instead, that formal action must be taken in a meeting open to the public.
Lattin added that the board would expedite, to the best of its ability, the hiring of a new fire chief, with the board hoping to complete the hiring in no more than three months.
“The board will be the interviewing committee,” explained PFPD Director David Blake. “The board will have the ability to request advisors, whether that be retired battalion chiefs ... it will be done as expeditiously as possible. We’ve conveyed to Chief Larson that this, in no way, represents any question of his capability, his certification, his background, his training or his personal commitment to Pagosa.”
At the very beginning of the meeting, Bower commended the PFPD board.
“I just wanted to address the board to tell them how much I appreciated working with them. I worked with Kenny (Rogers) and LeRoy a lot longer than the others, but I appreciate all of you,” said Bower. “I think you’ve done a good job, and I feel that it’s being left in good hands for the growth of the department. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.”
The audience and the board responded with applause.
“We’re on schedule. We’ve got four judges, two with significant experience, and one of those will be appointed executive judge and handle supplies,” Bower explained to the board when asked about the status of the upcoming election on May 3. “I’m hoping that, during slow times, two of the judges will be able to come upstairs and count ballots so that we’re not here forever that night.”
Bower later commented, “7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.), come vote, it will be in the bay.”
“Just as a comment on that, at least in our communities in the Chromo area, we’re doing our best to try and get a maximum turnout for people to be able to not only come hear the candidates but also to vote,” said Blake.
Three candidates are running for two vacant seats this election cycle.
Ed Ainsworth, Linda Lattin and Don Peterson will be vying for the two seats opened up by LeRoy Lattin and Rogers.
LeRoy Lattin is termed out this election cycle, with Rogers choosing not to run again.
The election will be held on May 3 at PFPD Fire Station No. 1, located at 191 N. Pagosa Blvd. from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friends of the Pagosa Fire District are also hosting a “Meet the Candidates” night tonight, April 14, at 7 p.m.
The event will also be hosted at PFPD Fire Station No. 1.
Reads a press release from the Friends of the Pagosa Fire District, “Everyone is welcome and we encourage our community to attend.”
The PFPD also received a letter from the Colorado State Fire Fighters Association (CSFFA) explaining that one of its volunteers has been chosen for the State Tuition Reimbursement as Incentive for Volunteer Emergency Responders (STRIVE) Program.
Steve Voorhis was selected as a participant in the STRIVE program, which will provide up to $5,000 for tuition reimbursement to himself or an immediate family member.
“I’d just like to ask the board to do a formal congratulations to Steve for this scholarship,” said Larson. “Its awarded throughout the state, and its a really good deal that’s out there for our volunteer firefighters ... Steve’s one of the few in the region that received that, and I’m personally very proud that he received that scholarship.”
“My daughter’s in college, and a child of a firefighter can apply for this scholarship. Its a $5,000 reimbursement for either a volunteer or a child of a volunteer,” Voorhis explained to the board. “This’ll will reimburse her $5,000 of the $7,000 she had from last semester’s tuition.”
The board commended Steve, with Lattin saying, “Steve, congratulations to you and your daughter.”
Joked Larson, “There is a clause in there that he has to remain a volunteer in good standing though, so we’re going to keep a close eye on him.”