TFPD elects new board members

Barbara Lawlor
Peak to Peak

It has been a little over a year since the Timberline Fire Protection District became a legal entity. Since then, most members of the department have stated that the two former districts, High Country and Colorado Sierra, have formed a strong bond which has decreased response time and increased membership.
It was a long journey and now that the dust has settled, it is time to move forward. Last Tuesday night, the Board of Directors held its annual election, and three new people were voted to sit on the board, which consists of five members. Of the five candidates for the four-year seat Rick Winzel, Paul Ondr and Jen Lavely with 92, 98 and 91 votes were elected to the board. Other candidates were Colleen Wenzel and Gail Maxwell.
Kay Johnson, unopposed, succeeded in the two-year seat with 97 votes. Election judges say the turnout was good but not as heavy as recent controversial elections.
Rick Wenzel was appointed to the TFPD Board in April 2011 from the Colorado Sierra Fire Protection District Board, in accordance with the Pre-Inclusion and Dissolution agreement between High Country and Colorado Sierra Fire Protection districts following the merger of the two Districts. During this past year, he has served as the Board President of TFPD and said he is proud of all the work that this first board has accomplished.
“I believe my leadership during this challenging time has been invaluable to moving Timberline forward, and I hope to continue to lead this organization in accordance with our vision statement which states “To be a professional fire department that sets The standard for service, safety and community relationships based upon leadership dedicated to organizational ethics and values.”
Prior to serving on the TFPD Board, Wenzel served on the Timberline Fire Authority Board for three years and was directly involved with laying much of the groundwork for the merger which formed TFPD. The vision statement quoted above was part of that work. Since the merger of the two districts the TFPD Board has accomplished many things, one of which was the hiring of the first full-time paid Fire Chief, Chris Jennings. Wenzel said that the board and the new chief look forward to working together to move the district forward in the future.
Paul Ondr has more than 16 years experience working in the fire service business. He also started and ran two small businesses and currently owns three rental properties, giving him an understanding of budgets, financial reports and performance management concerns. He and his wife are the parents of a three-year-old son and understand the importance of quality emergency services.
When Ondr entered the fire service with Hermosa Cliff near Durango, he knew he had found his calling. He obtained a degree in fire science from Red Rocks Community College. In 1996, he became a volunteer with the Fairmount Fire Protection District near Golden, which at that time was an all-volunteer department. During his time with Fairmount, Ondr held various positions, including firefighter, lieutenant, training officer and Captain, as well as being a member of the performance review board.
In August 1998 he was hired as a career firefighter with West Metro Fire Rescue serving the west side of Denver. He spent 14 years as a firefighter, paramedic, field instructor and engineer with West Metro. He retired in November 2011.
Ondr’s time in the fire service has given him the opportunity to participate in various aspects of emergency response including structure fires, wildland fires, technical rescues and almost every type of medical emergency imaginable. His fire service and personal experiences make him a well-rounded member of the board.
Jen Lavely is a Colorado native and a seven-year resident of Gilpin County. She has served in Gilpin County in many different capacities, including working as the Public Health Director for Gilpin County, where she created two effective and responsive county departments. She is known for her community involvement, population-based decision-making and creative problem-solving. Her strengths include being an objective leader and tireless advocate for the greater good, which has proved to be enormously useful in effective and equitable management of public services.
Lavely has helped establish and coach the Peak to Peak Swim Team for six years, creating 195 Piranhas and a rapidly growing Masters’ Swim Team. She volunteers at Nederland and Gilpin schools and served many years on the Gilpin School District Accountability and Nutrition Committees. She began a youth cross country running program, volunteers at Mountain Peoples’ Co-Op and took on the race management of three area events – the Neder-Nederland, Rollinsville Rail Run and the Gilpin Fair Triathlon.
Catherine “Kay” Johnson, the two-year Board member, has been coming up on weekends to her cabin in Dory Lakes for ten years. Last June, she moved here permanently, and her husband joined the Timberline Fire Protection District. She learned to recognize and respect the service that firefighters give every day. As a Board member she said she is committed to making responsible and informed decisions regarding the safety of the firefighters including their equipment and training.
She said, “It is critical to help establish the future direction of the Timberline Fire Protection District.”
TFPD Chief Chris Jennings said the district is lucky to have acquired this qualified board and looks forward to working with them. “While I feel we are slowly starting to chip away at many of the smaller near-term issues, it is the future five, 10 and 20-year plans that must now be addressed. This will greatly effect equipment, stations and overall direction of the department. This new Board will be required to start addressing the current lack of planning. The impact this Board will have on the direction of the department cannot be overstated.”
The new Board was sworn in last Wednesday night, May 9,at the regular Board meeting and the former Board members were thanked for their service.