PORT TOWNSEND — Jim Walkowski, assistant chief for Spokane County Fire District No. 9, will be East Jefferson Fire-Rescue’s new chief.
Walkowski, who has 32 years experience in firefighting, will begin leading the department Dec. 18, it was announced Friday.
“This is an exciting opportunity,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are going on right now.”
Walkowski will replace Chief Gordon Pomeroy, who is retiring after eight years.
Walkowski will earn $150,000 annually plus benefits, said Bill Beezely, spokesman for East Jefferson Fire-Rescue. Pomeroy earned $93,040.
Beezley said state law prohibited the department from paying Pomeroy the “going rate” for fire chiefs of similar-sized districts because he had retired and was collecting a pension. Walkowski will be paid market rate, he said.
The department began its search for a new chief this summer, and the first round of applications closed in July with 22 applications submitted.
Walkowski said he looks forward to returning to Western Washington, where much of his family lives; to engaging with residents who live in East Jefferson Fire-Rescue’s district; and to working with other jurisdictions.
“There’s a need and an opportunity to have community involvement,” he said. “We need to know from them what they desire and expect from us.”
Walkowski cited opportunities for the growth of the department as factors in his decision to accept the position, including the possibility of annexation with the city of Port Townsend.
“It sounds like political parties and the district are working through the annexation to bring it to voters,” he said. “It’s a pretty exciting time.”
Walkowski hopes to strengthen relationships with neighboring fire districts and jurisdictions, including the city of Port Townsend and the Port of Port Townsend.
“I’ll be looking for opportunities to partner with these and other organizations to enhance overall service to the community,” he said.
Fire department board Chairman Rich Stapf Jr. expressed satisfaction with Walkowski’s hiring.
“He has an ideal blend of operational experience and political knowledge, which will be critical for us in the coming years,” Stapf said in a news release.
“Plus, we’ve heard nothing but positive reviews from people who know him and have worked with him in the past.”
Walkowski began his career with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department in 1985. He progressed through the ranks of firefighter, company officer and chief fire officer during work with the city of SeaTac Fire Department, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue, Bainbridge Island Fire Department and Riverside Fire Authority.
He is a graduate of the University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute and attended Western Oregon University and Eastern Oregon University. He has served as board member and president and now is a past president of the Washington Fire Chiefs association.
He serves on numerous teams and committees including the Northeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team (Type 3) and the Homeland Security Regional Urban Search & Rescue team. He is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and Inland Empire Fire Chiefs Association.
Pomeroy joined the department in May 2008 as head of the Emergency Medical Service Critical Care Transportation Division.
He took over as interim chief in September 2008 following the sudden departure of former Chief Chuck Tandy, who was asked to step down by the board.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].