Board waits to replace Smith

Thursday, February 9, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:01 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Boone County Fire Protection District board plans to replace its former president Willis Smith at next month’s meeting, it decided Wednesday. The board also made a motion to adopt a standard application process and procedure regarding the replacement of district board members.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first since Smith, board president for 21 years, was found dead outside his rural Boone County home Jan. 25. Autopsy reports show Smith’s cause of death as apparent suicide, but the official cause of death will not be reported until toxicology reports are completed, Maj. Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said.

Although seven people submitted letters of intent to remaining board members Myrtle Rapp and John Gordon, they didn’t nominate anyone and decided to wait to announce Smith’s replacement. Gordon said there are many people who have expressed interest in applying for the position but many thought they had until April to apply. Gordon wanted to make sure everyone interested could apply.

“To act tonight would be to deprive those individuals from having the opportunity to participate,” he said.

According to the state statute, if a member of a board resigns, dies or fails to serve the remainder of his or her term, the remaining two board members must choose a replacement. Jeffrey Parshall, the Fire District’s attorney, said the procedure for choosing a replacement isn’t well established and that the state statute “doesn’t provide a lot of guidance.” There isn’t a time limit to appoint a new board member or specific method of carrying out this responsibility, Parshall said.

“I’ve prepared myself to meet this challenge in picking a successor, and I have to step back and determine where we are and what we need to do,” Gordon said. “I’m concerned we don’t have a process or timeline. It’s much like a job interview and I would like to treat it as such.”

Gordon said he wanted to develop a consistent method, time limit and standard application for the appointment of new board members to be fair to all citizens interested in replacing board positions.

Rapp said she wanted to choose a new board member before she finishes her term in April because of her 12 years of experience on the board and she urged a decision by March’s meeting.

The seven applicants to date are former city councilman and fire district founder Pat Barnes; Chuck Wilson, reserve sergeant for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and an agent for Shelter Insurance; John Richard, who was a board member on the Fire District two years ago; David Griggs, former county commissioner; James “Mickey” Nichols, fire captain of the Fire District’s Hallsville station; and Ricky Newell, firefighter at the Rocheport fire station. Smith’s widow, Marilyn, also applied for the position.

Smith’s replacement will serve the remainder of Smith’s term, which lasts until 2008. At that time, the board member may decide if he or she wants to remain on the board.

“Choosing a new board member is a necessity, but it’s not an urgency,” Gordon said. “I think waiting is in the best interest of the Fire District to have an open and fair process.”

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