I urge voters to reject the recalls targeting three Cannon Beach Fire District Board members. As a member of the Fire District Budget Committee for the last several years, I have participated in numerous district committee and board meetings. With one exception, before Mike Balzer became chief, there were no members of the general public present. Had the public taken an active interest and attended even a smattering of meetings during Mike’s tenure, they would understand and support Mike’s dismissal.
For example, the budget is the responsibility of the chief to prepare. Even if he doesn’t prepare it, he clearly needs to fully understand and be able to explain it. Over the course of three budget cycles, I observed no significant improvement in Mike’s ability to understand, or explain it. Rather, he became increasingly unpleasant over time when asked questions; often board members had to step in and explain for him.
Voters need to understand that Mike was clearly given more than fair notice of the board’s general unhappiness with his performance. At the time of his performance evaluation several months before his dismissal, the board had ample documentation and reason to dismiss.
Out of a genuine desire for Mike’s success, the decision was made to give him one more chance. Thus the evaluation included a work plan reflecting all of the prior board suggestions and requests for Mike to seek needed knowledge and improvement. Mike’s response was to say that the plan was undoable.
Many people have said that what really bothers them is not the fact of Mike’s dismissal, but how it was done. I agree that in some details it might have been handled more graciously, but that does not justify a recall. The fact remains that the fire district and the public deserve a better fire chief than Mike Balzer was willing to become.
When you live in a small town, it takes courage to fire a longtime resident with many friends. We are lucky to have a board with such dedicated and principled people, who are willing to put their personal concerns aside to do something that was bound to be controversial.
Vote against the recalls and for a stronger Volunteer Fire and Rescue District.
Marty Schwab Harris