Dozens of Leadership Positions Up for Grabs at Area Fire Districts

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

Commission positions in more than a dozen fire districts and the Riverside Fire Authority will be on Lewis County residents’ November ballots, though only a handful are contested. 

Two positions on the Riverside Fire Authority board are up for election and contested on the November ballot. 

In Position 4, incumbent Bonnie Canaday is challenged by Matt Evans. 

Canaday was most recently Centralia’s mayor and served for 20 years on the city council before resigning this summer after moving out of her district. 

She was one of the city council members appointed to form the Riverside Fire Authority. After more than 20 years in public service in Centralia, Canaday has cut back some of her public service, but said she remains committed to helping Centralia and supporting its fire service. 

“It’s a board I believe in,” she said. “I’ve been there from the beginning. It’s two meetings a month, and I don’t have a whole lot of extra meetings. This is something I could continue to serve on because I am here and I do care.”

Canaday said the RFA has struggled in recent years after losing tax revenue from TransAlta’s transition away from coal. 

“We cut back and we are as lean as we possibly can be and things are starting to turn around in the economy,” she said. 

In the near future, the RFA will need to look at replacing aging equipment while still keeping an eye on a tight budget, she said. 

Evans is a Port of Centralia commissioner, but his term ends in December. In a statement to the auditor’s office, Evans said he has great “admiration” for firefighters in the community. 

“Emergency services are critical to any community and need community support,” he wrote.

Evans did not return a request for comment. 

For Position 5, voters can choose between Centralia Mayor Lee Coumbs and John Selleck. The position is currently held by Thomas L. Davidson, who did not file for reelection. 

Selleck, a network administrator, said he’s worked in Centralia for 10 years but recently moved to the area. 

“For me it’s just stepping up and participating in the community,” he said of his decision to run for the position. 

Selleck described himself as a fiscal conservative and said he doesn’t have any specific issues in the RFA that he’s concerned about, but wanted to give residents another choice for the elected position. 

Coumbs, the husband of Canaday, was also involved in the creation of the RFA and was on the board until two years ago. He left the board at that time due to a technicality in voting laws that didn’t allow his name to appear on the ballot twice — he was also running for Centralia City Council. 

If elected, he plans to work to maintain the level of service provided by the RFA. 

“One of the things we’ve been working on and we’d like to do some further development is our education function,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of calls to the RFA, about 80 percent of our calls are medical.” 

Many of those are accidents such as slip and fall cases, he said, adding that education could help prevent such incidents. 

Other Races

In Onalaska, Fire District 1 voters will get to chose between Craig A. Franklin and incumbent Bill Kassel for commission Position 3. 

In Toledo, David J. Beal is running unopposed to retain his seat in Fire District 2’s commission Position 3. 

In Mossyrock, Douglas Houghtelling is running to retain his seat in commission Position 3 against challenger Curtis B. Spahn.

According to statements submitted to the Lewis County Auditor’s Office, Houghtelling joined the district as a firefighter in 2008 and was appointed this year as an interim fire commissioner.

Spahn didn’t submit a statement.

In Morton, Pam Cool is challenging incumbent Kevin Moore for that district’s commission Position 3.

In a statement submitted to the auditor’s office, Cool stated that she has served as a volunteer firefighter, EMT, corrections officer and police officer. She retired in 2007 and has lived in Morton since 2003. 

“My reason for running is a desire to help the fire department acquire new grants/funding sources to improve the many services they provide,” she wrote in her statement. “Recruiting and keeping volunteers is very difficult nowadays, as well, so I would like to explore how to help entice quality individuals to join and remain committed.”

Moore didn’t submit a statement. 

In Napavine, incumbent Fire District 5 commissioner Kevin VanEgdom is running for reelection. 

In Lewis County Fire District 6 in rural Chehalis, incumbent Kirk Johnston is running for reelection, challenged by Travis McGregor.

In Salkum, Anne Piper is running unopposed to retain her commission seat in Fire District 8. 

According to the Lewis County Auditor’s Office, Lewis County Fire District 9 in Mineral has two positions up for election — currently vacant position 2, which has two years left on its term, and commission position 3, currently held by Bruce L. Richie.

No candidates filed for either position. According to Washington law, Richie will remain in his seat. 

In Packwood, Fire District 10 commission seats 1 and 3 are both on the ballot. Incumbents Randy Crawford, in Position 1, and Phil Lawrence, in Position 3, are running unopposed. 

Fire District 11 in Pe Ell also has a position up for election this year, currently held by Stasha Magruder. No candidates filed for the position. 

In Boistfort, Kyle DePriest will challenge incumbent Position 3 commissioner David Fenn.

In Randle, Frank Kittock is running unopposed to retain his seat on the Fire District 14 commission. 

Randy Pennington is also running unopposed to stay on the Fire District 15 commission in Winlock, as is Dale (Mac) McCalden in Doty and Dryad with the Fire District 16 board.

All three positions on the Fire District 17 commission are up for election and are currently held by Paul Nerge, Paul Copsey and Phil Farcy. None of them filed for reelection and will not appear on the ballot. 

In Glenoma, incumbent Phil Congdon is being challenged by Lester Courtney for Fire District 19’s Position 3. 

A position on Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20, currently held by Kenneth J. Miller, is also up for election, but no candidates filed. 

The general election is Nov. 7.