Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District voters will have an unusual option in the April 3 election.

Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District voters will have an unusual option in the April 3 election.

A registered write-in candidate has come forward to run after one of two candidates dropped out of the race. James Burt is moving out of district, but now John Beecher is campaigning for the open seat on the three-member board of directors instead. Robert Hemen is the other candidate who filed during the regular period and will appear on the ballot.

Late write-in candidates are allowed by law, but do have to be registered. Beecher was accepted as a candidate by the SBFPD in recent weeks. To cast a vote for Beecher, voters must write his name in the appropriate slot provided on the ballot.

After Burt resigned from the race, Beecher said he chose to run for the office because he wanted to see a continuation of the progress the district has made in recent years and believes he can work well with the other board members and staff to accomplish that. 

“When Jim Burt had to drop out of the race, I realized that all the good work that has been done by the current board could be at risk,” Beecher said. “I believe I can best support the fire district by filling the open seat on the board.”

He supports working toward increasing the district’s staff of full-time professional firefighters and emergency personnel.

“We need to make sure that the district establishes a second fully staffed, round-the-clock fire station. It is the responsibility of the board to do everything possible to see that district residents and visitors are safe at the lake. At the same time, those efforts will build a strong department and help reduce homeowners insurance rates across the district,” Beecher says.

Beecher spent 30 years as a software consultant and systems manager, which he says makes him uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of the district’s future. 

“So much of everything we do these days is about technology,” Beecher said. “From our dispatch systems and GPS mapping to all the new firefighting technology that we have and will have, technology is a part of any modern fire department.” 

Beecher also notes his management skills from his years in the competitive insurance industry as experience in being part of a highly functioning leadership team. His community involvement includes volunteering for the Shootout, serving as a board member for the Sharing and Caring Foundation and working as a volunteer for a long list of organizations including United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army disaster relief programs. 

Hemen is running for the board of directors after previously serving a six-year term. But he is not the incumbent after losing a past election.

The 13-year Sunrise Beach resident who currently owns a business in the area touts his experience serving on the board and accomplishments made while he served.

Over the span of six years, he says he attended approximately 250 meetings and work sessions in which the board made crucial decisions for the future of the department’s service.

The board purchased land and built a new fire house on Route TT and sold the old fire house building to an established business. they also sold Station 5 to Lake West Ambulance. During his time on the board, they also approved plans and locations for the fire hydrants throughout Porto Cima and found Chief Dennis Reilly to replace long-time retiring Chief John Suellentrop. 

Other accomplishments of the board at this time, according to Hemen, included improvements to Station 3 to accommodate full-time staffing and improvement in the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) rating. 

Hemen says he helped prepare and approve the annual operating budget, updated and approved policy and procedures and worked closely with district counsel on personnel disciplinary actions.

“Being a board member requires dedication and commitment, it is not a part time job that only takes an hour or so a month,” says Hemen.

This candidate also notes that he does not support another tax levy at this time and instead wants to increase personnel through a better volunteer program.

“Our department lacks a volunteer program as it has supported in the past. Volunteers are a valuable asset for a community department in many capacities. I fought to keep the program in place to no avail,” he says. 

Hemen believes the department has an employee retention issue due to unexpected resignations. He says he would like to see exit-interviews be performed by the board.

“We need to explore those deficiencies and correct them. Our wage and benefit package is competitive to comparable districts,” he says.