Fire District Explores Nominating Process
Right now, anyone can nominate a candidate for fire commissioner during the EGFD annual meeting.
The East Greenwich Fire Commissioners are considering changes in the way commissioners are nominated. The move comes after a decision by the EG Town Council to place a nonbinding referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether the Fire District should remain a distinct entity or should be merged with the Town and made a municipal fire department.
As it stands now, a nominating committee for the Fire District interviews interested candidates and ranks those candidates. For instance, if five people express interest and there are three seats up for election, the commission would recommend three of the candidates to fill those seats.
At the Fire District's Annual Meeting in June, nominations can also be made from "the floor." Some have expressed concern this can make it easy for a person to get elected by the sheer number of supporters who show up at the Annual Meeting – which typically draws fewer than 50 registered voters.
In a memo dated Sept. 8, the EGFD's planning board said the fire commissioners "should establish the method of public declaration of their intention to run for [fire commissioner] in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Town of East Greenwich for seeking election to public office."
Candidates for all other public offices in East Greenwich must submit "declaration of candidacy" papers as their first step toward running for elected office.
"I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a ‘declaration of candidacy’ before the [annual] meeting," said Commissioner Mark Gee during a discussion of the planning board's recommendations Thursday, Sept. 27. "It eliminates walking into a Financial Meeting and having a group of people say they want to nominate a person who’s unknown.... That sort of eliminates the surprise factor."
Another step EG town candidates have to take is to submit a certain number of signatures from local registered voters in order to secure their place on the ballot.
The EGFD planning board stopped short of recommending such a step.
Fire Commissioner Steve Bartlett wondered if even making a declaration of candidacy was a good idea.
"We’re not politicians," he said.
Commissioner Mark Schwager argued otherwise: "You are a politician, you are running for office."
Bartlett then said, "I think we’d really struggle to get candidates...."
They took no action at their meeting Sept. 27, putting it off to the next meeting.
Meanwhile, the Fire District Commissioners and the Town Council meet Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Swift Community Center to discuss the public forum on Monday, Oct. 15, on the referendum.