A New Perspective 10-21-2004: Fire Department

Golden Gate Gazette

October 21, 2004

I met with Fire Chief Don Peterson this week and felt the frustration he is experiencing in a variety of his efforts.
The Chief is a great addition to our community. He is active in community groups and sincerely works to make things better in our community. There is no doubt he has a passion for what he does.
For the past few years, he has served as a citizen volunteer on the Golden Gate Master Plan Restudy Committee to make sure the future needs of the community are being met. The Committee was not able to complete its work in the assigned time period so the county established a Golden Gate Ad Hoc Committee, of which he is a member. The ad hoc committee was set up to fine-tune items that could not be finalized in the former committee’s timeframe. The torch to complete the job was passed on.
Last week, there was some confusion and the Ad Hoc Committee’s suggestions were thrown out by the Planning Commission without a glance because the committee was deemed unofficial. The verbal beating as the unofficial nature of the ad hoc committee came from Planning Commission Chairman Mark Strain, a former member of the Golden Gate Master Plan Committee.
The comment came as a slap in the face to Peterson. As a member of the ad hoc committee, he had been working diligently to notify and involve the community to ensure the changes were made with community input, using the guidelines set forth by the county’s original Master Plan Committee.
Then after all that work, he was shot down without a chance to present the information. After the meeting, the existence of the ad hoc committee was clarified and some of the smoke has cleared. Peterson’s hard work with the community can be salvaged in time to make things happen.
This is not the first battle for Peterson. The Chief has been fighting the planning commission and the county commission to get a fire station built with a training tower the District feels is in the best interest of the District. Once again, he got beat up pretty soundly by both boards.
On top off all this, he’s got me beating up the fire commission about the District’s budget, salaries and a proposed hike in the millage rate.
Just when he thought he was at his low, a columnist for the daily newspaper punched him just a little harder when he and the other county fire departments were accused of setting up their fiefdoms and marking their territories with towers. Once again, he heard the dreaded mention of consolidation of fire districts.
At least nobody mentioned the duplication of efforts between the county EMS and Fire & Rescue Districts. That issue has been pretty quiet lately.
There’s an old joke that goes:
“I stuck up for you the other day.”
“Oh yeah?” the other person replies.
“Yes, someone said you weren’t fit to feed to the pigs, and I said, ‘yes you are!”
That may be how the Chief is feeling about now, but I am genuinely glad he’s our Fire Chief and I believe by far that he’s the best in the area. We can all be proud of him. Give him a pat on the back next time you see him. He could use a little pick-me-up. If he gets too discouraged, he might not be as motivated to work so hard for us in the future.