My position on Police and Fire

Remember, the operative word in “Political Action Committee” is “Political.”

As we approach the Nov. 5 General election, I want to make sure you know my position on our police and fire departments, both of which have become politically active through Political Action Committees (PACs) in this election cycle.

I fully understand the desire of their members to work to maximize the benefits they receive for their services to the town. In my opinion, we have incredibly qualified and committed employees in both departments. Both have gone above and beyond the call of duty time after time.

This year both departments interviewed Town Council candidates and most of their questions dealt with negotiations on salaries and benefits. It should come as no surprise that they have chosen to endorse those candidates who are in line with their salary and benefit wishes. That is why the PACs exist.

The town must provide fair wage and benefit packages to all town employees and that means that not everyone can have everything they want. I have worked hard to provide police and fire with the best benefit package we can afford as well as providing both departments with the manpower, equipment and training they need to do their job safely and effectively. When I came on the council in 2012, the base salary for a 1st class police officer was $1,619.09 per pay. Today, that figure is $1,913.47. That’s an 18 percent increase. In 2012 a 1st class firefighter received $1,544.38 per pay. Today, that number is also $1,913.47 or a 24 percent increase. Both police and fire receive the town’s insurance package for $1 per year. That gives both departments a decent benefit package and helps with employee retention.

There is a deeper issue

But there is a deeper issue that you, the voter, should be aware of. When you are approached by a representative of either PAC, ask their position on retention of the respective department chief. If they are honest, you will learn that within the departments, there are factions pushing for replacement of the two chiefs; Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs and Police Chief Mark Palmer. Not all members hold this position but those most active in the PACs who are contacting you should be asked their position on the matter.

I want to make my position perfectly clear. If I am re-elected to the Town Council, I will not replace any department head in the town for political reasons. The council took the step of granting department heads the status of permanent employees. This protects them from political changes in the future. While I can’t think of a department head who has not made their share of mistakes, I fully stand behind all of them and my position is that we have one of the best overall management teams in our region.

Employees must be evaluated in a professional manner and on an ongoing basis and I will ensure that happens, however they must not be replaced summarily for political reasons or because a PAC feels a new department head can get them a better benefits deal.

Don’t get me wrong, not all members of either PAC want this change. It is your job as a voter, when approached by someone in either Political Action Committee to ask them if they are trying to bring about changes at the top of their respective department. If they do and you support their cause, then, vote for the candidate they support. If they are seeking to fire the existing police or fire chief and you oppose that action, then I ask for your support.

I love being a public servant. I love working on your behalf for the town. I love talking to you about issues facing the town and answering your questions about the town and its projects. But I thoroughly hate the distasteful and occasionally deceptive environment that permeates the community prior to a town election.

Remember, the operative word in “Political Action Committee” is “Political.”

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