2 seek Clark County Fire & Rescue seat

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

Clark County Fire & Rescue commissioner candidates

Clark County Fire & Rescue commissioner candidates

Michael Lambrecht

Age: 60.

Occupation: Quality assurance supervisor, Defense Logistics Agency.

Endorsements: The International Association of Firefighters local chapter No. 3674.

Larry Bartel

Age: 64.

Occupation: Retired deputy chief, Clark County Fire & Rescue.

Endorsements: None so far.

Clark County Fire & Rescue Commissioner Michael Lambrecht is facing off against Larry Bartel, the district's former deputy chief, for Position 5 on the board, which runs the fire protection district that serves more than 120 square miles in Ridgefield, La Center, Battle Ground and Woodland.

Commissioners meet about twice a month, earning $114 for every meeting they attend, including additional committees, up to $10,944 annually during their six-year term. The primary duties of the commissioners consist of setting the budget, establishing policies and hiring the fire chief, who oversees the district's day-to-day operations.

Michael Lambrecht

photoMichael J. Lambrecht is running for Position 5 with Clark County Fire & Rescue's Board of Commissioners.

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A lot has happened in Lambrecht's most recent six-year term. Clark County Fire & Rescue merged with Fire Districts 11 and 12 in 2009, and entered into a contract this year with the city of Woodland for fire coverage. It also received two grants for a new boat house and a fire boat that can fight house fires from the Columbia River.

The district was able to nix an EMS levy due to increased property values in Ridgefield. Lambrecht said he wasn't a fan of the levy anyway, and saw it as a short-term fix.

As the economy picks up, he believes the district will be able to maintain or increase service levels. Next year, residents of Battle Ground -- a city that contracts with Clark County Fire & Rescue for fire and medical services -- will pay the same tax rate as everyone else in the fire district: $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Although Battle Ground has incrementally paid more, the amount was always smaller than other areas in the district. In the next few years, Battle Ground residents will likely get to vote in fire commissioner races.

"I think we're going in the right direction," Lambrecht said. "We're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel."

In the next term, he hopes the district can hire one, perhaps two, additional firefighters.

Lambrecht has 19 years' experience as a fire commissioner and spent a few years as a volunteer firefighter in 1988 with District 14. His platform calls for efficient spending while maintaining high-quality service.

Larry Bartel

photoLarry Bartel is running for Position 5 with Clark County Fire & Rescue's Board of Commissioners.

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Bartel wasn't planning to rejoin the fire district after 34 years of service, but he changed his mind while chatting with Chief Dennis Mason about the interesting changes going on in the district.

"I've always loved the fire service," Bartel said. "I decided to stay involved."

His father, the late Bill Bartel, co-founded Fire District 12. Larry Bartel started helping with fires as a teenager and spent more than two decades as chief of District 12. After the merger, he became Clark County Fire & Rescue's deputy chief in charge of support services.

As commissioner, he said, he would want to revisit a study that looked at whether Clark County Fire & Rescue and its contract cities, Woodland and Battle Ground, should become one regional fire authority. Other goals include strengthening the paramedic, volunteer and public education programs, as well as restoring the equipment fund.

Bartel, who has a degree in finance from the University of Washington, managed expenses while he was deputy chief; if elected, he looks to closely monitor expenses and revenues. To keep expenses low, he looks to continue seeking partnerships with neighboring agencies to share resources. Clark County Fire & Rescue, for instance, borrows ladder trucks from the Vancouver Fire Department, while the city department borrows its water tenders.

"Citizen needs and wants should always come first in every decision we make," Bartel said. "I hope we never lose sight of that."

He also wants to get the reserve fund back to a "comfortable number." When his position was eliminated in the 2012 budget, the commissioners cited an economic reason: to keep more money in reserve. Bartel believed he was wrongfully terminated for filing a whistle-blower action against the district after two commissioners received stipends for attending his father's funeral.

"I'm here to make the district better, not to get even with anybody," Bartel said.

Neither candidate has reported any campaign contributions, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.