Editor’s note: The IFPD commission announced a special meeting for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan 4 to consider an appointment of an interim fire chief.
Idyllwild Fire Chief Norm Walker submitted his resignation Dec. 28 and left his position on Dec. 31, only 17 months after being sworn in as chief.
In his letter, Walker clearly disagreed with the fire commission’s decision asking him to step aside and expressed his pride in the department’s accomplishments during his tenure.
“I want to make it clear that I do not agree with the Board of Commissioners’ decision to ‘take the department in a new direction,’ ” he said directly.
Walker feels the new direction has never been set forth as a policy and therefore he has not been given an opportunity to demonstrate whether his leadership can take the department in the direction and achieve the commission’s goal.
Commission President Jeannine Charles-Stigall expressed her and the commission’s gratitude for Walker’s service in the past year and half.
“I greatly appreciate everything Chief Walker has done for the community,” she said. “However, Chief Walker’s inability to recognize the very real financial crisis IFPD is facing has forced the commission to seek more experienced leadership.”
Stigall believes Walker does know the commission’s direction. Ever since the failure of Measure G in August, the commission’s agenda has focused on addressing the department’s floundering finances, especially the $450,000 advance from Riverside County.
The new commission’s first actions were to schedule a budget workshop for Saturday, Jan. 7, and to discuss a strategy for opening negotiations with the Idyllwild Career Firefighter’s Association.
In his letter, Walker did speak to the financial issues when he advised the commission not to “replace career firefighters with paid-call firefighters.”
Stigall did not indicate any intention to dissolve the career cadre. Their first step as a commission will be to find an interim chief and then begin looking for a permanent replacement.
“I’m looking forward to 2012,” she said. “It will be a good year for the Idylwlild Fire Protection District.”