ECFR Position 5 candidates
George ‘Jack’ Hoober
Education: Bachelor of science in electrical engineering
Community involvement: President of the local chapter of the Retired United Airline Employee Association
Education: Associate of arts degrees in fire science and aeronautics
Community involvement: Past member of board of directors of the Frazier Lake Airport, merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts.
A retired firefighter is challenging a longtime incumbent for position 5 on the East County Fire & Rescue Commission.
Tom Gianatasio, a relative newcomer to the area, is looking to unseat George “Jack” Hoober.
“I like to be involved in my community,” Gianastasio, 61, said. “When we got settled in to our new home, I went to a commissioners meeting to see if they could use me for anything, as I have experience in everything that makes up the physical aspect of a firehouse, as well as CPR, hazardous materials training and working in fatalities. At the meeting, I found out (a nearby fire station) would not be staffed and thought I should get involved.”
Hoober, who has served a total of 12 years, is running for re-election because he wants to see the commission continue on its current path.
“We have done a good job getting things up and running since the merger (between fire districts 1 and 9 in 2006) and have a great chief in Scott Koehler,” Hoober said. “I want to keep it going.”
A career firefighter, Gianatasio retired after 36 years with the San Jose Fire Department. It is his first time seeking public office. Despite his lack of political experience, Gianatasio said he is ready for the task.
“It will be a learning curve but I can handle it,” he said. “I have enough administrative experience and work as a firefighter that I can handle it.”
A website created and managed by ECFR volunteers states that those running against the incumbents are doing so with the purpose of “hijacking” the commission, pushing for a merger between Camas and Washougal, and phasing out the volunteer firefighters. The site, www.fcomm.org, also claims that the challengers are part of a group effort, supported by the International Association of Fire Firefighters.
When asked what his response to the site was, Gianatasio said, “I am not into mud wrestling with pigs.”
Regarding a potential future merger, he said that he would need to research the matter before making any statements as to whether it would pencil out.
“I work for the people that elected me, and it’s their money, not mine,” he said.
Gianatasio said issues of importance for the commission include adequate staffing of stations and careful management of the budget.
“We’re going to have to look for more bang for our buck,” he said. “I can’t see going to the voters right now and asking for more money.”
He also said that he plans to look at the volunteer training program and determine if more is needed.
“I need to look at things now, and make sure it’s good, quality training,” he said. “We need to have the volunteers integrated with the career firefighters. I see good community things (that they do) but I think there needs to be a little more preparedness in the event of an emergency.”
If elected, Gianatasio wants to review any current emergency plan and make sure it is solid, review equipment purchasing procedures and elevate volunteer training.
“I want to make sure people are properly trained,” he said. “Being a volunteer is a sacrifice and sometimes people’s situations change, so I’d also like to recruit more folks for that.”
He added that volunteers play a crucial role in the fire district.
“You simply cannot have all full-time, paid firefighters,” Gianatasio said. “I want to take what we have for volunteers and make them the best they can be.”
He added that the claims that he and the other two challengers, Kenny Cochran and Brooks Cooper, want to dissolve the fire district and create one entity with Camas and Washougal, are unfounded.
“I’ve met the two other guys and they seem nice, but I’m running because I think I can do a better job than my opponent. It’s time for him to move on and for me to help out.”
When asked why voters should cast their ballots for him over the incumbent, Gianatasio said, “I’m a professional firefighter, I have skills in construction, I ran a crew, I’m trained in hazardous materials and as an emergency medical technician. I have the experience of being on a huge variety of calls.”
After 12 years on the commission, Hoober, 78, said he is proud of ECFR’s accomplishments.
“I have a good feel for being a commissioner instead of a firefighter,” he said. “Running a department is a lot different than being a firefighter. One is all about budgets and maintaining a structure. The other is putting out fires and handling medical problems.”
During his time on the commission, Hoober said he is most proud of successfully merging Fire Districts 1 and 9 in 2006.
“That’s a big accomplishment for a volunteer fire department,” he said. “And I am proud that our volunteers are trained to the (National Fire Protection Association) standards. I feel it is critical that they are trained to the highest possible standard.”
When asked how he felt about the possibility of a future merger with Camas and Washougal, Hoober said there is potential.
“But I don’t know how successful we will be in changing attitudes,” he said. “We tried talking to Camas and Washougal before and it didn’t work out.”
However, he added that the current commissioners are not “anti-merger.”
“In general, mergers are efficient in terms of training, fighting fires and providing medical services,” he said. “The cost savings are marginal but efficiency gains are great.”
Hoober said that the primary issues the commission is dealing with now are declining property taxes, keeping the volunteer force intact and replacing equipment.
“I think we will be in good shape in the long term,” he said. “We are spending within the budget, and as long as we can do that, we’ll be OK.”