Brian Oftedal

Photo by Tony Kukulich

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) Board has reelected President Brian Oftedal (seen above) and Vice President Stephen Smith to their officer positions for another one-year term.

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) Board has reelected President Brian Oftedal and Vice President Stephen Smith to their officer positions for another one-year term.

The unanimous vote was made during the board’s last meeting of the year, held on Dec. 11.

“As the fire chief, I have had the privilege to work with President Oftedal and Vice President Smith for the past two years,” said ECCFPD Fire Chief Brian Helmick. “It’s good to see they both have the continued support from the other board members to maintain their positions as president and vice president. I believe with their leadership, the district will continue to advance as we work to address our revenue and service level challenges.”

Measure N, passed in November 2016, shifted the board’s composition from nine appointed members to the current makeup of five elected members. Only five candidates filed papers for the board’s first election that was scheduled for November 2018. All five were appointed to the board negating the need for an election.

“I am humbled and honored to once again be nominated, to serve as the East Contra Costa Fire Protection Board president,” Oftedal said. “I appreciate the trust and confidence that my fellow elected directors have placed in me. We have made some tremendous progress over this last year and it is exciting to start seeing some of the fruits of our labor. I am excited to continue working to improve public safety in East Contra Costa.”

Securing an additional revenue stream for the perpetually underfunded district will likely be the board’s biggest challenge in the upcoming year.

The district operates three stations to provide fire, rescue and emergency medical services for approximately 115,000 residents spread over 249 square miles of East Contra Costa County including Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Byron, Bethel Island, Knightsen and Morgan Territory. However, the district’s strategic plan, completed one year ago, identifies the need for six stations to adequately protect the district’s residents at the current population level. An additional three stations are required to accommodate expected growth in the area.

Incident response times that regularly exceed national standards point to the strain under which the district operates.

The district is expected to put a new funding measure in front of voters sometime in 2020, though the form it takes has not yet been announced. The two most likely options are either a parcel tax or a benefit assessment. Attempts to increase funding were voted down in 2012, 2015 and 2016. In an effort to increase the chances for passing a spending measure, the district recently launched a public-engagement campaign intended to raise awareness of ECCFPD’s funding issues and receive direct feedback from residents on their concerns related to fire service.

Serving alongside Oftedal and Smith are directors Carrie Nash, Joe Young and Adam Langro. Board members typically serve four-year terms, but Smith and Young were assigned two-year terms so that the entire board won’t come up for reelection every four years. Board members elect the officer positions of president and vice president annually.

All of the existing board members with the exception of Nash served as appointees on the board prior to 2018. Oftedal served as president of appointed board prior to being named to that position on the elected board.

“It has been a privilege to partner with President Oftedal in leading and representing the district as we complete our first year of executing on the ECCFPD strategic plan,” Smith said. “Much foundation work has been accomplished. This coming year will be a very pivotal one for the district as we update several fee structures, add to district infrastructure, and seek a badly-needed revenue enhancement.”

Improving relationships with county, state and federal officials has been one of Oftedal’s top priorities over the last year. He said that quarterly meetings held with a variety of elected officials have been beneficial for the district.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with President Oftedal and Vice President Smith over the last year,” said Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis. “With their fellow directors and Chief Helmick, they’ve worked incredibly hard to increase residents’ understanding of the challenges the district faces and its history. I think they’ve earned a lot of trust, and I look forward to working with them next year.”

For more information on the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, visit www.eccfpd.org.

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