James Fossos, far right, stands with his fellow SKFR fire commissioners and fire chief Vic Pennington at a commissioner’s meeting on Feb. 26, 2019. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

James Fossos, far right, stands with his fellow SKFR fire commissioners and fire chief Vic Pennington at a commissioner’s meeting on Feb. 26, 2019. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Commissioner James Fossos resigns from South King Fire board after lengthy absence

Fossos’s resignation is effective Feb. 29; South King Fire & Rescue board has until May 29 to fill the vacancy.

Commissioner James A. Fossos announced his resignation from the South King Fire & Rescue Board of Commissioners in a recent letter to the board chair, stating his decision was made in the best interest of the fire district and citizens served.

Fossos was hospitalized in March 2019 due to undisclosed health concerns, the Mirror previously reported, and he was discharged from Harborview Medical Center on May 15, 2019.

The health incident and subsequent recovery time has prevented Fossos from attending commissioner meetings for the past 11 months; his absence has been excused from each monthly meeting.

Chair Bill Gates read Fossos’s letter aloud at Tuesday night’s commissioner meeting.

In part, Fossos wrote:

“I want to thank you and the board of commissioners for giving me time to heal over this past year. I much appreciate the support and kind wishes from the citizens and our department members.

“I will need additional time to heal and therefore, believe it is in the best interest of our district and the citizens we serve that I step down as fire commissioner. I will resign my position as fire commissioner for South King Fire and Rescue as of Feb. 29, 2020.”

When a commissioner position becomes vacant before the expiration of the elected official’s term, the board has 90 days to appoint a qualified citizen to the seat, according to the SKFR board guidelines for policies and procedures.

The position will only be filled until the next municipal election to serve the remainder of the unexpired term. Fossos’s board term expires in 2023.

SKFR’s board has 90 days from Fossos’s resignation date, or until May 29, to fill the position.

News of the commissioner’s departure evoked emotional responses from each of the four remaining board members, who commended Fossos for his service and shared memories from their time serving with him.

Fossos will be missed, not only as a friend, but for the wealth of knowledge and experience he brought to the board, Gates remarked.

“When I think of [Fossos], one word that comes to mind is passionate,” Gates said during the emotional announcement. “I’ve never seen anybody so passionate about his country, his family, being a marine and the fire service.”

Fossos’s fire service career began in 1970 as a firefighter with the Seattle Fire Department until his retirement in March 2001. Prior to becoming a Seattle firefighter, he served as a United States Marine in the Vietnam War.

Commissioner Bill Fuller said he had the wonderful privilege of listening to countless stories from Fossos and commissioner Mark Thompson about their experiences with the Seattle Fire Department.

Fossos also loved to sketch roses — which he called his “marine roses,” Fuller told the crowd, adding that he hopes the department can display one of his art pieces in the near future to honor Fossos’s service.

“He’s always been dedicated and was always working for the betterment of the community and the fire department,” commented commissioner John Rickert, thanking Fossos for his service.

Fossos has served more than 27 years collectively as a fire commissioner, originally elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners of King County Fire District 26 in 1993 and re-elected in 1999. He has been on the South King Fire commissioner board since 2005.

Fossos also served for eight years as deputy vice president of the First Marine Division Association.

“It had to be a hard letter to write,” commissioner Mark Thompson said at the meeting Tuesday. “… He’s not gone, but he’s not here with us. And we’ll miss that.”

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