Q-and-A with Superstition Fire and Medical District board candidate Gene Gehrt

Gene Gehrt

Three area residents are running for two seats on the Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board in the Nov. 6 general election. The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent e-mailed questionnaires to the candidates. They will be posted online in the order they were received.

Name: Gene Gehrt

Personal: 70 years old. Retired since 2000. Married to Jane 36 years. Resident of Gold Canyon, MountainBrook Village since 2000. Fire district property owner and taxpayer since 1993.

Education: College of San Mateo, business administration; and Prairie State College, fire science.

Official positions held: Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board, clerk since 2014; Superstition Fire and Medical District Pension Board, chairman since 2014; and Hoffman Estates, Illinois, Fire and Police Commission, chairman 1988-99.

Community involvement: Mountain View Lutheran Church in Apache Junction, church council treasurer 2007-09; and Arizona Schnauzer Rescue, Chandler, foster parent since 2008.

What makes you different from the other candidates?: Experience:
•33 years of business management experience, including 20 years at Ameritech/SBC/AT&T, a Fortune 100 corporation, with director level responsibility for $20 million budgets and staffs with varied functions and disciplines across multiple departments including customer service, information technology, marketing, materials management, real estate – project management and property/facilities management.
•24 years of fire service experience, including: 13 years, firefighting, rescue, EMS, training and admin (10 years as company officer – Park Forest, Illinois; and 11 years, fire and police commissioner (nine years as commission chairman) at Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
•In addition I have demonstrated my dedication, leadership and fiscal responsibility for the last four years as a current Superstition Fire and Medical District board member.

How will you make a difference on the Superstition Fire and Medical District Board?: All my life, I’ve believed in public service. From serving as a police and fire commissioner for 11 years to working and volunteering as a firefighter for over a decade, to serving on my church council as treasurer and most recently serving as the current Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board clerk and Pension Board chairman. I am committed to the principle of giving back to the community. I also believe we need to serve where our experience can be best applied. The Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board has a direct impact on the life safety and financial well-being of every person living in or visiting our district. Serving on their board allows me to indirectly help save the lives and protect the property of the residents and visitors of our community and to directly conserve our taxpayer dollars by contributing and best applying my proven common sense approach and fire and business management experience.

What is the role of the Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board?: In a nutshell, the fire board administers the affairs of the fire district. The five-member board shall act through a majority of a quorum, by action taken at public meetings. The board has the ultimate responsibility to administer the district. The fire board’s responsibilities are set forth, in part, in A.R.S. §48-805:
•a. The board shall be responsible for setting the district’s budget and setting the district’s policy.
•b. The board may delegate authority to the fire chief to perform certain duties on behalf of the district.
•c. The board shall not engage in district operations and defers these duties to the fire chief to carry out in furtherance of the District’s policies and standard operating guidelines.

What are your hopes for the Superstition Fire and Medical District?: As a taxpayer in the fire district for 26 years and a full-time resident of MountainBrook Village since 2000, I’ve seen the district continue to grow. I believe the board must absolutely take our fire district to the next level, posturing in anticipation of planned and potential growth and development by continuing to improve professionalism and even more effectively servicing our residents and visitors by saving their lives and protecting their property. At the same time, it is our responsibility to treat every single taxpayer dollar as a precious commodity. I’m committed to those priorities and as a past manager of a Fortune 100 company I have the real world business experience to continue to get the job done. That is why I have decided to run for re-election.

How would you rate the state of the fire and medical district?: Good to very good.

What changes would you recommend?: I believe the board needs to focus on our future:
•Our district is experiencing a lot of new development, both commercially and residentially with the potential for a lot more. This growth will create more tax revenue for the district and with correct management should create an opportunity to have a positive effect on our existing taxpayers by lowering their taxes.
•As a first step I would recommend we consolidate our current administration staff with our training staff to one facility (preferably to our training center). The consolidation would improve communication, productivity and reduce cost. It would also posture us for future growth.

Name one un-funded or under funded program or project you would promote as a member of the fire and medical Board and why?: I do not believe at this time there are any unfunded programs that have to be funded. With the proceeds generated by the five-year override that our taxpayers graciously approved in November 2016 for capital items we are getting the job done within the revenue streams we currently have.

The fire and medical district has a budget of more than, $21 million much from property taxes, yet few residents attend board meetings. What can the governing board and district do to get more people interested in the district?: The good news is that when no one shows up at our meeting it generally means we are doing things right. The exception to this is when people attend to meet and thank (recognize) one or more of our crews for impacting their lives by either saving them from a medical problem or saving their property from the result of a fire or accident. By law the governing board is required to meet monthly. For convenience the monthly meetings are scheduled for the third Wednesday of each month. All meetings are open to the public. By law the agendas stating the date, time, location and items to be discussed and if needed acted on must be posted a minimum of 24 hours prior to the meeting and approved meeting minutes are posted on the district webpage and at our Regional Training Center, administrative building and Station 264.

What do you want to accomplish if you are elected?: If re-elected my current goals will not change. I have several clear goals. First and foremost, I want to continue to improve the safety of every resident within the district. We need to continue to make sure that our firefighters and paramedics have the most effective training and the necessary equipment to continue saving lives and protecting property. At the same time, we must continue doing more for less. To me, shaving costs where we can is a must. We all know what happened to our home values and how families have struggled in the past.

What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration?: We cannot ask taxpayers to shoulder an additional burden. We need to continue to explore and, where proven beneficial, implement alternative revenue streams. This includes exploring opportunities of collaboration with other districts/departments. Our district has a huge potential for future growth to the south, east, north and even to the west (unincorporated areas of east Mesa). We need to start posturing for our future and exploring the potential impact on the district and the taxpayers. With proper planning the results could be advantageous to the district and taxpayers, if ignored the results could be disastrous.

What will your priorities be if re-elected to the board?: My priorities if re-elected will not change, not today or in the years to come:
•When it comes to people’s lives, second-best is not good enough. I will continue to support our crews’ safety by providing leading-edge training and state-of-the-art equipment.
•I will continue to insist that every firefighter and employee be held to the highest professional standards. In a job that requires the “best and bravest,” we need to employ those up to the challenge.
•I will continue to make sure the district continues to live within its means. Every taxpayer dollar is worth far more than a dollar to me, because it comes from us, the people.
•I will insist that the district be fully transparent. Our taxpayers have an absolute right to know where their money is going.

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