Broman an enigma

June 10th, 2011 by Ken

Lacey Fire Chief Jim Broman is retiring on June 30. It’s OK if you don’t know who Jim Broman is. It’s OK if you do know who Jim Broman is, but don’t care.

That’s perfectly fine with the Lacey Fire Chief. He doesn’t care if no one knows who he is.

“We’ve been quietly doing our job,” he said. Broman feels that he has been successful. “Over the years we’ve been able to develop a team that provides good service.”

“I call it quiet competence,” Broman said. What’s quiet competence? “The community says that the people were nice, professional and took care of me. That’s how you measure competence.”

When he took over the wheels of the fire district in 1989 it serviced a population of 44,500, had 15 FTEs, 24 volunteers and seven stations, only two of them staffed 24 hours a day.

Now the district serves 86,500 people, has 86 FTEs, 20 administrative volunteers and operates five stations, four of them staffed 24-hours a day.

Its operating budget is $10 million. An additional $2.5 million is under a Medic One contract.

But, for all of its competence, the fire district has had a difficult time passing excess tax levies. It’s had a better time in passing bonds to build facilities and purchase equipment, but the community support for additional operating money hasn’t been forthcoming.
Some say its because the fire chief has not been visible and active in the community.

Broman disagrees. He says he’s been busy in the community and cities his activities with the Olympia Harbor Patrol, the Masterworks Chorale Ensemble and with his church. He also points out that the fire district has been a member of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce and has participated in many chamber activities.

But Broman’s major activities have been at the state and national level. He was the head of the Washington State Fire Chief’s Association for two years and has been working his way up the chain of leadership in the International Fire Chief’s Association where he heads the professional development committee.

“What we do at the national and international level has major impacts on the local community,” he said.

Broman said that annexation of the City of Lacey into Fire District 3 was good for everyone. “It removed a lot of distraction (financial) and allowed us to focus on providing service.”

He said that one of his greatest disappointment was that annexation didn’t occur sooner than it did. He also said that he wished expansion of the fire commission from three to five members had also happened sooner.

Broman said he supports a Regional Fire Authority but isn’t convinced it can save money. “It can work, but it depends on the administrative structure,” he said.

The retiring fire chief also said that he gets along well with the fire fighter’s union. “We’ve agreed on some goals,” he said. “The community come first; we have to make fire fighters and EMTs safe; and we have to have good equipment and good training.”

He says he disagrees with the union’s global perspective on wages, staffing and working conditions. “Those should be determined at the local level,” he said.

He has no involvement with the selection of a new fire chief but said “it’s good for the district to have fresh new eyes and fresh leadership. There are people within the department who are capable of doing that,” he added.

(Editors note: A similar story appeared in the March 2011 edition of “Ken’s Corner & The Real News.”)

Posted in Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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