PORT ANGELES — Richard Rudd, 92 years old and among Washington’s longest serving fire commissioners, will soon see his last days in office.
Clallam County Fire District 2 commissioner candidate Steve Hopf gained a clear majority of votes in the combined two counts of Tuesday’s primary ballots for the Position 3 seat Tuesday and Wednesday.
Rudd, the 40-year incumbent, came in a distant third.
“I’ve had my run,” Rudd said Wednesday.
Hopf garnered 678 votes (62 percent) to Keith Cortner’s 259 votes (24 percent) and Rudd’s 145 votes (13 percent).
Hopf, the district’s former part-time fire chief, and Cortner, a regional emergency management specialist for Florida-based Early Alert Inc., will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Ballots will be mailed to registered voters Oct. 16.
Rudd, a former Fire District 2 fire chief and firefighter, was reflective about the loss.
“Whether someone more popular takes over is fine, as long as they are progressive and help the district. That’s all I care about,” he said.
Rudd, who would have been 98 at the end of his six-year term, said his age may have been a factor.
“Maybe the thought goes through some people’s minds that maybe he’s running out of ideas and it’s time to get some new blood in there and see what they can do,” he said.
Hopf, 64, a retired fire captain-emergency medical technician with South King County Fire & Rescue, was optimistic about gaining more votes for the position than Rudd and Cortner combined.
“I feel like it’s mine to lose or mine to win, for me to grab,” Hopf said Wednesday.
“I will do my level best to do it right so I can represent the district at its very best.”
Hopf said he has spent about $1,000 of his own money on about 100 campaign signs.
He has a campaign banner draped over a fire truck he owns outside his home, and plans to go door-to-door today along Mount Pleasant Road, talking to voters and leaving campaign literature.
The district covers 7,100 voters over 85 square miles from east of Deer Park Road west to East Beach Road at Lake Crescent, not including the city of Port Angeles and community of Joyce.
Hopf’s experience with the district and handle on such issues as impacts of the urban growth area east of Port Angeles make him the better candidate, he said.
“Keith Cortner brings great ideas as well, but mine are a little more custom tailored to the Olympic Peninsula,” Hopf said.
Cortner, 60, said he was disappointed at the percent of votes he garnered.
Cortner, a retired emergency medical technician-driver-engineer with the Fort Myers [Fla.] Fire Department, said name recognition might have something to do with that.
“[Hopf] may be a step up on local issues, but I am the candidate that has just recently gotten out of the fire service,” Cortner said.
“I’d like to think I have a leg up on current fire service issues and standards around the nation that would fit into any community.”
Cortner said he will focus his general election efforts on emphasizing the district’s infrastructure and manpower needs.
He said he has not spent any funds on campaigning, will probably have to buy campaign signs and has not thought about going door-to-door to push his candidacy.
The fire commissioner position offers life insurance and pays up to $12,288 annually for attendance at meetings.
Commissioners approve an annual budget that in 2019 is $2.2 million and pays for nine full-time employees.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.