Five candidates competing for seat on Fire District 1 board

Candidates for commissioner of Fire District 1. Top row, from left: David Chan and P. Bret Chiafalo. Second row: Brandy Donaghy and Michael Ellis. Bottom: Brandon Richards.

Candidates for commissioner of Fire District 1. Top row, from left: David Chan and P. Bret Chiafalo. Second row: Brandy Donaghy and Michael Ellis. Bottom: Brandon Richards.

EVERETT — There’s a surge in interest in serving on the board of Snohomish County Fire District 1.

Four people have filed to run against the incumbent, David Chan.

The competition may have to do with a recent controversy. Chan had joked in March about hiring paramedics from Mexico when he didn’t know his microphone was on during a break in a board meeting. Afterward, he was accused of racism. Chan, who is an immigrant, maintains that his comments were misinterpreted.

Last month, Chan questioned whether the district should continue to record board meetings, according to the minutes.

Now he is seeking another six-year term as a fire commissioner. The job involves setting the budget and long-term vision for the growing district, as well as overseeing the fire chief. It pays up to $10,944 annually.

His challengers are P. Bret Chiafalo, Brandy Donaghy, Michael Ellis and Brandon Richards. The upcoming primary election will send two candidates with the most votes to the general election in November.

Chan, 65, is an accountant who works in business consulting. He was elected to the board in 2005 and again in 2011.

He says that he understands the job because of his experience. He wants to make sure the district is ready for population growth and technology changes.

“You do a lot of analysis and you listen to people and you come to a conclusion,” he said. “You don’t just say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to everyone. You need the bigger picture of what is good for the whole district.”

Chiafalo, 38, is a computer engineer. He is best known for being a member of the Electoral College who broke ranks with the Democratic Party and cast his vote for Colin Powell in the presidential election last fall.

The so-called “faithless electors” are suing Washington over whether they have to pay fines for violating state laws. The next court hearing is set for September.

Chiafalo long has been interested in politics and has been to every caucus since he was 18. He says the fire district has spent too much money searching for a new chief and not enough on testing stations for asbestos. He also wants to make sure an effort to merge with the Lynnwood Fire Department is successful. That merger is on the same Aug. 1 ballot.

“I feel like the firefighters need a voice and I could be that voice,” he said.

Donaghy, 44, is a U.S. Navy veteran and stay-at-home mother. She volunteers to teach art classes in Everett schools. Her mother is a retired nurse who showed her the importance of serving others, she said.

Donaghy wants to make sure the fire district and labor leaders have good relationships when they need to negotiate contracts, especially if the merger happens.

“I’m a firm believer that unions protect people who are protecting us,” she said. “We really need to be willing to work with them.”

Ellis, 27, is a police officer in Mountlake Terrace. He works closely with District 1 firefighters and hears about their issues, he said. He believes the district needs to bolster recruiting and training. Not enough is being done to address an increasing workload, he said.

“I want to be a voice for the firefighters to be able to get them the things they need while also getting the community the things they need,” he said.

Brandon Richards, 45, is a partner in a martial arts studio and a volunteer with Snohomish County Search & Rescue.

There’s a disconnect between the commissioners and the firefighters, he said. “The public needs to have some better fire services,” he said.

He says the district needs to increase staffing and improve communication. He also says the crews require newer trucks.

Fire District 1 is based in south Everett and serves about 200,000 people in unincorporated southwest county. That includes the district’s contracts to provide firefighting and EMS within the cities of Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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