Deputy chief Justin Grider with Clallam County Fire District 2, center, has accepted an offer to become Fire District 3’s next fire chief. Here he stands with, from left, Port Angeles Fire Department Chief Derrell Sharp, Joel McKeen, Port Angeles Fire Department assistant chief, Joyce Fire and Rescue chief Greg Waters and Fire District 3 interim fire chief Dan Orr. (Jay Cline)

Deputy chief Justin Grider with Clallam County Fire District 2, center, has accepted an offer to become Fire District 3’s next fire chief. Here he stands with, from left, Port Angeles Fire Department Chief Derrell Sharp, Joel McKeen, Port Angeles Fire Department assistant chief, Joyce Fire and Rescue chief Greg Waters and Fire District 3 interim fire chief Dan Orr. (Jay Cline)

Fire District 3 chooses Grider as new chief

Finance manager, new district leader set to start March 1

SEQUIM — Clallam County Fire District 3 has hired Justin Grider, a former volunteer coordinator and current Fire District 2 deputy chief, to serve as its next fire chief.

Fire District 3 commissioners and Grider agreed to tentatively start March 1, according to commissioners.

He’ll start the same day as the district’s new finance manager, Misty Shaw.

Commissioners said Grider’s and Shaw’s leadership will positively impact the community and organization.

“The board is confident these new leaders are well equipped to successfully navigate the current and future challenges of Clallam County Fire District 3,” board chairman Jeff Nicholas said in a press release.

Grider could not be reached for comment.

District 3 interim fire chief Dan Orr said he feels staffers are excited for Grider to join them.

“I have tremendous faith he will make improvements and continue to make the district better and better into the future,” Orr said.

He said Grider is interested in looking at how local fire districts can partner more and consolidate services to be more effective.

Grider first served for Fire District 3 for 18 months as its volunteer coordinator before he was hired in November 2019 as Fire District 2’s deputy chief.

He initially retired from a fire service in New Mexico before he moved to Sequim.

Grider is from La Cueva, N.M., and comes from a line of first responders: his father worked as a fire chief and mother was a community dispatcher, according to previous reports. He started his fire career with Sandoval County Fire Department as a volunteer and continued with volunteering even after he was hired in 1997 with the Los Alamos Fire Department.

Grider was promoted many times and held such titles as driver engineer, captain and battalion chief before he retired as deputy chief in 2016.

He was named New Mexico’s Fire Officer of the Year in 2015.

Fire District 3 commissioners said in a press release that Grider’s “commitment to community safety and extensive background in emergency response make him the ideal candidate to lead District 3 into the future.”

They wrote: “(His) proven track record and dedication to excellence align seamlessly with the district’s mission of safeguarding lives and property.”

Hiring process

Fire District 3 leaders started looking for a new fire chief last year after former fire chief Ben Andrews exercised an option in his contract in April 2023 to work remotely until he retired this year.

Orr, then the assistant chief, took over as interim fire chief.

In November, four finalists — from Bremerton, Pasco, California and Florida — were chosen from a field of 19 recruited by consulting firm Prothman of Issaquah. However, after group interviews and a community meet-and-greet, the top candidate turned down the district’s offer citing family concerns.

Commissioners said for privacy reasons they wouldn’t release his name. They subsequently chose to pause the search.

Commissioner Bill Miano said in an interview that Grider did apply for the position, but Prothman did not select him as a finalist. However, commissioners had names of all candidates and wanted to gauge Grider’s interest because they were familiar with him and he lives in the area.

They met with Grider in executive session during a special meeting on Dec. 24 and offered him a contract on Jan. 16, Miano said.

Commissioners opted not to go through a large interview process and meet-and-greet, Miano said, because they gleaned enough wants/needs from staff and community members through the November interviews.

“We did this wide search … and a broad spectrum was attracted here,” Miano said.

“We offered an external candidate the job and it didn’t work out, but we knew we had talent in our backyard and we felt he shared the same vision we have here.”

Orr, who was hired in 2015, will stay on tentatively beyond Grider’s start date to help him acquaint himself with the district, Miano said.

Orr said he plans to stay on for an undetermined amount of time to introduce Grider to community members and leaders, and help him acclimate to the job as long as he needs.

Finance manager

Shaw will take over from Alwynn Whitaker, who has been finance manager for the district for eight years.

Shaw was offered the position Jan. 12 with commissioners saying in a press release she brings “a strategic approach to financial management (and has) a solid background in finance and a keen understanding of organizational needs.

“(She) is well-equipped to navigate the financial landscape of the district,” they wrote. “Her expertise will play a pivotal role in ensuring the district’s fiscal health and sustainability.”

Shaw moves to the area from Texas, where she serves as the City of Granbury’s assistant director of finance.

Clallam County Fire District 3 covers 142 square miles of the Sequim-Dungeness area. Its personnel includes three elected fire commissioners, one fire chief, a deputy chief, 45 firefighters/medics, seven full-time support staff, two part-time support staff, 44 volunteers, and 500-plus active Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members.

For more information, visit ccfd3.org.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at matthew.nash@sequimgazette.com.

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