QUILCENE — The retired fire chief of Central Mason Fire-EMS will begin work as interim chief of Quilcene Fire Rescue today.
Tim McKern, 60, will serve as interim chief until April 1 while fire district commissioners pursue a long-term plan for a permanent chief.
The commissioners decided unanimously to offer him the position at a special meeting Thursday night. McKern, who has 44 years experience, accepted over the phone shortly after the meeting. He will work 32 hours a week at $45 per hour.
“I think [McKern] will help us through this crisis,” Commission chair Art Frank told a crowd of about 15 Quilcene and Coyle residents on Thursday evening.
“I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the train.”
Former fire chief Frank Montone, 56, submitted a letter of resignation to the commissioners on Jan. 12. His last day was Jan. 14, six months after he was hired by Quilcene Fire Rescue (QFR).
McKern’s immediate goal is to “bring [QFR] a little help, a little stability and see what the commissioners want in the short- and long-term.
“I just figured I’d go up and help Quilcene. I know the area well.”
McKern lives in Shelton and plans to commute each day. He plans to investigate the needs of the community and work on grants and projects for the department.
He said he is open to the discussion of staying longer if the district needs him to do so.
“I want to make sure all the projects I start get completed,” McKern said. “I think QFR has a great group of folks.
“I’m excited and think it’s a great opportunity for us and them.”
Montone said he resigned “because I wanted to spend more time with my family and try something new.
“The hours are better and I get to spend more time with my son, daughter, wife and dog,” he said Friday.
Montone was offered a position as a fire investigator about two months ago. He said he jumped at the opportunity, but tried to negotiate with the fire commissioners to work as a part-time administrative chief and have the department hire a crew captain to oversee the daily operations.
Commissioners agreed by a 2:1 vote, but he resigned before the captain could be hired.
“QFR is a fantastic, great group of people who are really supportive,” Montone said. “I have nothing bad to say about them.
“Whoever is lucky to move in there as chief will just be a blessed person.”
McKern and Montone know each other and have worked with each other, as McKern serves on the Northwest Region Health Counsel that includes Jefferson, Clallam, Mason and Kitsap counties.
“I like [McKern]. He’s a great guy,” Montone said. “[It’s] wonderful. I’m glad they got someone in there quick.”
McKern also has worked with Port Ludlow and East Jefferson fire rescue departments.
“I am confident he will do very well for that organization,” said fire chief Jim Walkowski of East Jefferson Fire Rescue.
Frank plans to have an exit interview with Montone about his tenure and the commissioners are planning to have more public discussions about future plans like possibly partnering with Port Ludlow, hiring a new chief, hiring an administrative chief and an operations captain and other ideas.
Montone hopes that the groundwork he’s laid for improving QFR will continue on.
“I got the ball to the five-yard line. Now someone else has to run it in for a touchdown,” Montone said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].