In 2016, when the Town of New Market appointed Shenandoah County Fire Chief Tim Williams to the role of interim fire chief, Richard Walker, a member of the county Board of Supervisors, criticized the move, calling it a potential violation of the department’s rules.
Less than two years later, the Town of Strasburg appointed Williams into the role of interim chief as well. On Friday, Walker said that he plans to bring up the same concerns about Williams’ appointment in Strasburg during the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
Walker said that Williams is forbidden from taking up a fire chief position at any volunteer fire department within the county because of county fire department rules that restrict what positions paid fire department members can take. According to the county standards of guidelines, full-time fire department employees “may not hold any elected or appointed office” with any Shenandoah County volunteer fire department.
“I don’t mind if [volunteer fire departments] appoint someone who leans heavily on [Williams] as far as his input, and I don’t mind if he helps them reorganize; I think that’s all well and good,” Walker said. “…But if he accepts that position (as interim Strasburg Fire Chief), I think he is putting both himself personally and the county at risk.”
After Williams became interim fire chief in New Market in August 2016, Walker asked Williams if he had accepted the position of fire chief, according to minutes on the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors website.
Williams said that his title was interim fire chief, not fire chief, and that he had not accepted a position of fire chief at New Market, the minutes state.
As Walker recalls, Williams indicated that he was just providing operational support for the fire department.
“From that standpoint, I have no complaint about it,” Walker said.
Williams has not responded to requests for comment. Jason Ham, the Shenandoah County attorney, has not responded to a request for comment.
Beyond having a concern about the legality of the New Market and Strasburg arrangements, Walker said that he is concerned about the potential that the county is taking control of the New Market and Strasburg volunteer fire departments.
“I want…the control of the local departments to stay with the local department,” Walker said.
Local fire departments, Walker said, have a better sense of what their areas need than county fire department officials and are better suited to address those needs.
“It’s an operational concern,” Walker said. “The volunteer fire departments [are] each very unique.”
According to August 2016 minutes from the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, three members of the Board of Supervisors voted to prevent Williams from becoming fire chief.
Of those members, only Walker remains on the board.