The race for Spokane County Fire District 10 commissioner comes down to financial versus emergency management experience.
After the first primary election for a District 10 commissioner in more than a decade, voters whittled down their choices to Gordon Hester, a volunteer district 10 captain, who has been a commercial real estate broker for about 30 years, and Kevin Haughton, a Spokane city fire lieutenant, who has worked with Northwest Incident Management teams for about 13 years.
Haughton captured about 42% of the primary vote and Hester won a little more than 35%.
Both candidates said it’s important for a commissioner to understand how a fire department with a combination of volunteers and paid staff functions.
Hester, who has worked with and managed District 10 firefighters for about 10 years, said one of his primary goals is to increase integration with nearby fire departments and analyze staffing levels to provide better service to residents.
“I think there’s a real opportunity to improve the relationship with Airway Heights, Medical Lake and District 5,” he said. District 5 covers the northwest plains.
Hester said he also would work to recruit more volunteer firefighters, like himself, as departments nationwide deal with shortages. He said he frequently has been involved at fire station open houses working with the district’s Division Chief of Recruitment and Retention Deb Dodson.
“The big thing about recruiting volunteers is it really has be done face-to-face,” Hester said. “You have to be able to bring somebody into the station so they can understand the value a volunteer brings to the community.”
Haughton, who grew up in the West Plains and started his firefighting career as a volunteer, said to bolster recruitment he would research if the fire district can bring on volunteers for medical calls if they aren’t interested in fighting fires.
He said he also would look to budgeting and scheduling in order to have a paid firefighter on duty 24/7 and wants to coordinate more closely with the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Natural Resources and other agencies.
Haughton has worked for the Spokane Fire Department since 2000 and overseen wildfire crews involving up to 2,000 people as a logistics section chief with Northwest Incident Management Team 12.
“I believe I’m well-rounded in the fire service as it relates to volunteer staff, career staff and even residents,” Haughton said. He added in a follow-up interview, “I’ve run an all-risk team not just a fire team. We could go to a hurricane next week for 30 days.”
Hester said the biggest difference between him and Haughton is background in budgeting and sitting on boards.
Hester has about 30 years of experience in financial management with Kiemle Hagood, where he is vice president and director of commercial real estate. He also has participated in the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Spokane Partnership.
“I think that lends itself to the position,” Hester said.
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