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South King Fire candidates turn up the heat at forum | ELECTION
Longtime incumbent Bill Gates will seek re-election to position 1 against challenger Jerry Galland, a resident of unincorporated King County and an outspoken critic of South King Fire and Rescue.
Gates was first elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2007. He has been board chairman the past four years.
In 2011, Galland ran for the board of commissioners against James Fossos and lost. Galland regularly attends board meetings.
At Wednesday’s election forum sponsored by The Mirror, Gates championed the fire district and criticized Galland for relentlessly bird-dogging the district and commissioners.
On the flip side, Galland said the district lacked transparency, and he accused the board of mismanaging public tax dollars.
Gates said the district has received 11 clean audits during his tenure. Another big accomplishment, he said, is the district’s coveted Class 2 insurance rating, which is considered the best in the state.
“You’re being served by one of the best fire districts in Washington,” Gates said.
In a letter posted on The Mirror’s website and distributed at the forum, Gates rebutted Galland’s contrarian positions and accusations on the district’s excess levy, severance package for the chief, legal counsel for the chief’s son, and the district’s new training center. He also criticized Galland’s penchant for making public records requests of the district, and filing a pair of “false police reports” against two commissioners.
Galland said he has not missed a fire commissioner meeting in four years, and believes he can add value to the board, if elected. He said his main interest is advocating for conservative finances on behalf of the public. He said someone needs to ask tough questions about the way tax dollars are spent.
“I try to give valid input,” Galland said. “It gets ignored.”
Neither candidate has previous firefighting experience. Gates said he has a “comprehensive view” of emergency services, and has had training in Fire Ops 101, CERT and integrated emergency management.
Another point of contention was SKFR’s recent excess levy, which generates $3.5 million a year. The district told voters the money would go toward returning an aid car to service, and help bridge a funding gap. The aid car was returned to service this summer. Gates said the levy addressed a shortfall of $2 million.
Galland said the board and district lacked foresight to plan for the debt, and based on his calculations, the levy ended up being “a $3.8 million mistake.”
“It’s very clear that we have problems,” Galland said in his closing statement, adding that the board is a rubber stamp for the fire district and chief.
In his closing statement, Gates told a poignant story about how the district recently presented a “purple heart medal” to Wynn Loiland, a firefighter who was severely injured in the line of duty. Gates said that at the board meeting when Loiland was honored, everyone in the room stood up to applaud except Galland. Galland said he didn’t remember it that way, and said he stood for Loiland.
Contact the candidates
Bill Gates: email@example.com
Jerry Galland: firstname.lastname@example.org