On Nov. 8, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s (IFPD) Board of Commissioners filled the vacancy created when former Commissioner Ben Killingsworth unexpectedly resigned from the Board in September.

Instead of appointing a replacement without public input the commission invited our community members to apply for the position. Given the current challenges faced by IFPD and the diverse talents of many community members, we were hopeful that we’d receive multiple applications allowing us to select someone who would bring a new perspective to the commission.

It was very disappointing that only three people came forward. Of those three applications, one candidate did not come to the meeting. Personally, I was hesitant to consider someone who did not attend the meeting.

That left us with two applicants, both of whom ran in the recent [August] election. Pete Capparelli had 260 votes and Mark Spehar’s vote count was 121. More than twice the number of voters who chose Spehar chose Capparelli. This was difficult for me to overlook.

Additionally, Spehar is currently employed with CAL FIRE and I had concerns about a conflict of interest. Capparelli has spent the past two years serving on IFPD’s commission. We’ve not always agreed on issues but, for me, this wasn’t about choosing someone who has or would always agree with me. It was about choosing the person who was the best fit for the community and the department. Based on his rank in the election and his investment in IFPD to date, I voted for Capparelli.

On a similar but separate topic, I have received text messages, phone calls and emails deriding me for my vote. I will continue to respond as such, “I voted for the person I felt was best qualified. I am deeply disappointed that the community failed the commission and the district by not stepping up. It would have been great to have had more people interested in resolving the serious issues at IFPD. By the Dec. 13 [regular] meeting, Larry Donahoo and Jerry Buchanan will have been sworn in. I deeply feel that with their talents this ‘new’ commission will bring much needed changes and strengths to IFPD. It is important to remember that one person doesn’t hold power on the board. All voices are equal and a quorum of three commission members is needed to carry a vote.”

If you absolutely need to email, text or phone me, please feel welcome to do so. I am your representative, your voice at IFPD and I will listen. But be prepared to answer my question — “Why didn’t you apply for the position?”

Jeannine Charles-Stigall
IFPD Commissioner