Nicholas wins in Fire District commissioner race

Duane Chamlee

Duane Chamlee

SEQUIM — Chamlee, Nicholas and Ryan looked to fill the seat being left vacant by Mike Gawley, who had served on the three-member fire commissioner board for the past seven years.

Jeff Nicholas, a volunteer firefighter/EMT who earned the endorsement of Fire Fighters Union IAFF 2933, has won a seat on the Clallam County Fire District 3 commission.

As of Wednesday, Nicholas had 8,377 votes (64.8 percent) to opponent Duane Chamlee’s 4,506 votes (34.8 percent), as they vied for Position 1, which has a six-year term.

Nicholas, who moved with his wife to Sequim in 2016 after many years visiting the area, said he felt voters are familiar with him through his efforts with the fire department and other activities.

“I think a lot of people know my wife and I around town; (she) works at the food bank. During the beginning of the pandemic, I was the person out in the community going to the stores, getting supplies, coordinating the PPE drives with (Sequim School Board member) Jim Stoffer.

“I think people know me, and a number of people asked to me to run for the job.”

That included many local Fire District 3 staffers.

“They were out the most Monday mornings in the cold, at the (main Sequim) intersection,” Nicholas said.

“I got a lot of support from them, and from our state senator (Kevin Van De Wege).”

Chamlee, who spent 43 years in fire service including five years as a volunteer firefighter, and 38 years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said he was disappointed but that he thought Nicholas would do a good job on the commission.

“He’s a good man. I don’t have any concern that he won the seat and I did not; both of us have the best interest of the district in our hearts,” Chamlee said.

He also said he appreciated Nicholas ran a clean campaign.

“I knew it was an uphill struggle based on the results from the primary” Chamlee said. “But I wanted to stay in it and give the public a chance to make a choice. The public made a choice, and I’m fine with that.”

Nicholas retired in 2017 from FLIR Systems, a manufacturer of advanced electro-optic camera systems as business development executive, specializing in the capture and ongoing customer support of contracts involving large- and small-scale governmental maritime sensor system programs. Prior to that, Nicholas served as a naval submarine officer for 30 years and retired as a captain in 2008.

Since 2018, he has served as a volunteer firefighter/EMT and helped with COVID-19 food distribution and mass vaccination efforts in Carrie Blake Community Park.

Nicholas said a key issue for him during the campaign was finding ways to organize staffing, an issue complicated by geography: Without an emergency room in town, the district’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are often riding along with patients to Port Angeles, putting them offline for about 90 minutes, he noted.

“Those distances make this district a bit different,” he said.

A strategic plan is also key for the three-member board to update.

“Going from crisis to crisis is expensive,” Nicholas said.

The incoming fire commissioner replaces outgoing commissioner Mike Gawley, a retired Federal Aviation Administration support specialist and computer programmer.


Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at

Jeff Nicholas

Jeff Nicholas

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