Supervisors split on New Market fire chief decision

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

WOODSTOCK — The New Market Fire and Rescue Company is facing its second leadership crisis in a year as the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors argue over the legality of the county’s soon-to-be fire and rescue chief leading the town station as well.

During the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Supervisor Richard Walker introduced a motion to prohibit Tim Williams from becoming New Market’s chief.

The board voted 3-3, with Walker, Marsha Shruntz and Cindy Bailey voting for the measure and Dick Neese, Steve Baker and Conrad Helsley voting against it.

Williams, operations chief of the county Department of Fire and Rescue, will become the county chief on Sept. 1 upon the retirement of current chief Gary Yew.

Yew has led the New Market station and the county department since Dec. 21. New Market Town Council appointed him to replace Robbie Smith, the town’s former fire and rescue chief.

Council removed Smith on Dec. 21 as a result of hostile relations between New Market Fire and Rescue volunteers and county first responders stationed in town.

During its Aug. 15 meeting, council unanimously approved Williams to replace Yew, effective Sept. 1. Mayor Doug Bradley stood by the decision in a phone interview on Wednesday.

“We think Tim is very well-qualified, well-trained and very well-experienced,” Bradley said, adding that he would meet with Town Manager Mike Ritchie to decide the town’s next step.

The county’s argument against Williams’ proposed dual leadership is rooted in the 2006 service agreement signed by county administration, the county fire and rescue department and all 12 volunteer fire and rescue companies.

The agreement states that “career employees of the county shall not be permitted to hold an operational or administrative position within the chain of command structure of any Shenandoah County company.”

When asked why Yew’s dual leadership has been accepted but Williams’ wouldn’t be, Walker indicated that Yew’s appointment also violated the service agreement.

“As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t okay,” he said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Bill Rogers, a member of the New Market station’s board of directors, criticized supervisors for not allowing the station to conduct its own business.

“I don’t know why you folks can’t let us elect our own officers,” he said. “We’re a privately-owned company.”

Walker replied that the blame belongs with New Market’s council because “they did not approach this board and they are not a party of the agreement that was made with the fire and rescue department.”

State law allows the governing body of any county, city or town with a fire company to appoint a fire chief and other officers “in such manner as the governing body … may prescribe.”

Helsley said supervisors “can have a discussion with New Market at a later date.”

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