Volunteers waiting for OK to elect one of own as chief

Uncertainty has been something of a theme for the volunteer members of New Market Fire and Rescue ever since the retirement this summer of Gary Yew, who served as fire chief for the town as well as Shenandoah County.

After Yew’s retirement, Tim Williams took over both roles – the county’s interim fire chief and interim fire chief in New Market. Williams was then hired as the county’s chief and continues as New Market’s chief.

At the Oct. 4 town Planning Commission meeting, Jamie Bowman, the town’s assistant chief, asked that council appoint a volunteer to the chief’s position. Councilman Gary Comer, public safety committee chair, told Bowman that no plan was in place but that he and other council members were looking into it.

“We just need to take our time and look at all the options and see which way we’re going to go,” Comer said Wednesday. “These things take time and we need to be looking at everything very carefully, not just for the town but for the citizens of the town – it’s their well-being that we’re talking about.”

He said that a number of factors are being taken into consideration during the process.

“We’re studying on it,” he said. “We are giving it some thought, but nothing’s been decided. What we’re most interested in is seeing that the calls are answered. Backgrounds and education and training all come into play here.”

Comer said that a deadline for a decision has not been set and that things at the fire department have been running smoothly and the job has been getting done.

“My committee and I have been very satisfied with how things have been running,” he said, adding that the calls are being answered. “I’ve heard no complaints from the public. We’re satisfied as long as the calls are being answered.”

Bowman echoed what Comer said as far as the career-volunteer dynamic, saying that as long as the job’s getting done, the firefighters are happy. He stressed the importance of communication as well.

“The relationship between the (career) staffing and the volunteers at the stations, I don’t have a single complaint about that,” he said. “Communication is good. The career officers that are in our station are involved in our monthly meeting. Everything we talk about, they’re involved in. If you didn’t have communication, that’s when people tend to wander off into their own world.”

Bowman said he’s “pretty confident” that a volunteer will be named to the vacant chief position and hopes he can fill the spot.

“There’d be nobody better for the position than somebody who’s qualified within the department. My name’s thrown out there for taking the position because I’ve got 25 years in the department – as a volunteer, I think I’m well qualified for it.”

Bowman did express some frustration with the dynamic between the department and the town, saying that the town shouldn’t be the body governing the New Market department.

“People are kind of aggravated and wondering why the town wasn’t willing to work with us. We’re in the same town,” he said. “I said all along that we need to have better communication within the town when it comes to what we do at that station. I don’t think the town realizes all that we do at the station. … it should be up to the organization to vote in the fire chief, whether it be me or another member who is qualified for the position.”

Bowman said that he was hoping to speak at October’s Town Council meeting, but was told the agenda was too full. Comer said that the public safety committee would have to meet before bringing it to council, which will likely occur in November’s committee meetings.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.

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