CANNON BEACH — Marc Reckmann, the division chief at the Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District, will take over as fire chief.
Reckmann, 40, of Forest Grove, will replace Matthew Benedict, who retires at the end of December.
Reckmann stepped in as acting chief when Benedict took a leave of absence in May. Benedict announced his plans to retire in October, saying 30 years of fire service has taken a toll on him physically and mentally. He is using the rest of his vacation and sick leave through the end of the year.
Reckmann will serve as interim chief until assuming the role full time.
Reckmann has worked for the fire district part time since 2017. He works full time as a shift captain for the Cornelius Fire Department, where he has served for the past 18 years.
“I love what I do, but I’m ready for the next stage of my life. I’m ready to come off that engine working 24-hour shifts ... and have a different challenge,” Reckmann said. “I’m looking forward to challenge. There’s a lot of challenges here.”
The fire district’s board put together two panels for input made up of volunteer firefighters and South County officials, including Seaside Fire Chief Joey Daniels, Cannon Beach Emergency Manager Rick Hudson and Cannon Beach Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn.
Both panels shared their recommendations prior to the board’s vote. The panels agreed changes need to be made to support the next chief, and communication between the board, chief and volunteers needs to improve.
Both panels recommended the board hire Reckmann.
“However, it is concerning to the committee that the common denominator of burnout and retiring or resignation between the last three fire chiefs has been centered around their relationship with the district board,” Jorden Spencer said in a statement on behalf of the volunteer firefighters panel. “We believe that in order for our next fire chief to be successful there must be change in the way the district board treats the chief and lines of communication must be kept open.”
The panels agreed a strategic plan needs to be created to ensure the next chief is not set up to fail.
“The biggest challenge the district has right now is it needs to be reorganized,” Hudson said on behalf of his panel. “I’m talking about the overall philosophy, especially when it comes to the leadership position of the fire chief.”
Hudson recommended forming a mentorship and leadership team made up of local fire chiefs and executive leadership to support Reckmann and help the fire district develop a strategic plan.
“The transparency needed from the board all the way down to the brand new firefighters has to be something that changes,” Hudson said. “I’m not sure what that change is, but it really comes down to communication stream. That reorganization that could happen during the strategic planning could be what brings the district together.”
Benedict replaced Mike Balzer, who was fired by the fire district’s board in 2015. Balzer later reached a settlement after he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the fire district over his dismissal. Three board members faced a recall election in 2016 over the dispute but voters kept them in office.
The board scheduled a work session to address the recommendation and create a plan moving forward. Although the board was receptive to the feedback, several board members said they are not to blame for a lack of communication.
“If people feel that there’s been a lack of communication I’m going to have to blame it on our fire chiefs in the past,” said Bob Cerelli, the fire district’s vice president.
He said the fire chief is the conduit for communication between the board and volunteers, and it is the chief’s job to make sure there is an open line of communication.
“Communication has to go from the firefighters up to the board and from the board back down to the firefighters,” Reckmann said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things for me is really open, honest communication with the board … The board has to know the information of what the district needs.”