Exeter District Ambulance board moves to district elections, begins search for permanent district manager after appointing crucial third board member
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
EXETER – The Exeter District Ambulance Board finally has a quorum and they took full advantage of it by having two special meetings in less than a week.
The public ambulance district board had gone two months without meeting, following the resignation of board member Darinda Kunkel on Dec. 21, before holding an emergency meeting on Jan. 23. Earlier that day, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors appointed Diana Mendez to fill one of three vacancies on the board. Mendez, a deputy county counsel for the County of Tulare, joined board members Adam Pfenning and Tony Miller on the EDA board, giving them a quorum, the necessary number of board members needed to vote on items or even hold a meeting. She fills the vacancy left by Stacy Walter who resigned from the board on May 8. Mendez will serve out the remainder of Walter’s term through 2020.
Once Mendez was sworn onto the board, the board quickly moved to make Pfenning the new board president and Mendez the board secretary. The only other action the board took at the Jan. 23 meeting was to change its meeting times and dates. The board voted 3-0 to hold regular meetings at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month in the board room of the district board office, 302 E. Palm Ave. in Exeter.
The board reconvened at another special meeting on Jan. 29. At that meeting, the board held its fifth and final public hearing on switching from at-large to district elections. The change was in response to an Oct. 3 “demand letter” from the Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield LLP threatening to sue the District if it did not move to district elections because at-large voting is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. Attorney John Sarsfield argued that at-large systems tend to elect officials from white, affluent neighborhoods and discriminate against minority candidates.
There was no public comment before the board voted 3-0 to switch to district elections. Districts 2 and 3 will be up for election in 2018 and Districts 1, 4, and 5 will be up for election in 2020. Pfenning and Miller both live in District 2 of the new boundaries, so Pfenning’s seat will be filled with someone from District 2 in this November’s election while Miller will remain on the board regardless of the district he lives in until his seat is up for election in 2020. Pfenning voted to have District 2 on the 2018 voting year so that he could run for election to the seat.
Mendez will also remain on the board until 2020 as the District 4 representative. Whomever is appointed to fill the vacancy left by Darinda Kunkel will serve out the rest of Kunkel’s term through 2020. In the November 2020 election, Kunkel’s seat will be filled by someone from either District 1 or 5.
The board also voted to move ahead with the recruitment process for a permanent district manager. The board amended a “Request For Letters of Interest” for the position used in September. The letter includes a job description, recommended education and experience, as well as someone with good people skills. It does not include a salary as board member Mendez asked to do a salary comparison while the position is being posted to several employment sites. EDA has not had a permanent district manager since Kim Damico was placed on administrative leave a year ago. She was replaced by T.J. Fischer who served as interim district manager from February through September. Tim Stahl officially began his tenure as district manager on Oct. 25 after he was selected from a short list of candidates. Stahl brings 22 years of EMS experience following a 10-year career in the Marine Corps. He previously worked as a paramedic for the Delano Ambulance in Kern County prior to taking a position with tax-funded ambulance district in July.
The EDA board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12. The meeting is a special meeting because the board must appoint a fourth board member by Feb. 19, the 60-day window public board’s have to appoint new members to vacancies. If the board does not appoint someone at the Feb. 12 meeting, the Board of Supervisors would have to appoint someone by March 21. In either case, the board will be comprised of three appointed members and one elected in lieu until district elections in November. Pfenning was appointed to the board on Aug. 8 to fill the vacancy left by Alan Sherer’s resignation on June 26. Stahl said he would have the web site exeterdistrictambulance.org operational and begin posting the board’s meeting agendas on the web site prior to the Feb. 12 meeting. The site has been inactive for several months and automatically takes browsers to an administrative log-in screen.
The vacancy left by the resignation of Rob Hubbard on June 27 missed both the 60-day and 90-day windows for appointment and will remain vacant until the election.
The board also changed its regular meeting in March from the 26th to the 5th due to a lack of quorum. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m.