Election Connection: Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District Board of Directors

Lake Sun Staff
newsroom@lakesunonline.com

As the April elections draw near, the Lake Sun will be publishing a number of Q&A articles centered around races in the tri-county area.  In this edition, the candidates for the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection Board of Directors will discuss their talking point and vision for the district.  In April 2020,  voters approved increasing the number of Board of Directors from three persons to five persons. The two additional seats were not up for election until April of 2021. Below are the responses from candidates John Smiley, Laurie Preator, Robert Dye and Rick Butler. Betty Hovey and Donna Meyer did not provide answers to the questions provided.

All answers are unedited. Some candidates did not provide an introduction or photo. 

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John Smiley

John Smiley

Married for 36 years, two kids out of the house and off payroll. Live in Porto Cima. I have over 45 years of business experience. Initially in information technology, but grew into leadership positions in business operations, corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions and sales. Currently Vice President of Business and Channel Development for a software and services company. Love to travel for work and pleasure. Been to five continents and 46 countries for work and pleasure. Also love spending time at the Lake with friends and family enjoying the many great things there are to do and experience. Go Chiefs!

1. Have you ever held any type of public office?

No, I have not had the privilege of serving my community this way. I do have a desire to serve to help the Lake community become the best place to live, work, and play. I believe serving on the SBFPD Board will afford me the opportunity to help our community shape its future. I expect we will see a shift in the full-time vs part-time population of the District over the next few years creating additional service demands. These increased demands will require the community, through the Board, to be smart about how we invest the resources we have available to get the best outcomes.

2. What makes you qualified for this position?

Over the last 45 years as a leader in publicly traded companies, as a management consultant working with some of the biggest brands on the planet, and as a business owner for very large programs, I have learned to: Make decisions based on facts, not emotion Consider multiple stakeholder positions and understand motivations and needs to help broker a solution that works for all concerned Listen, “if I am talking, I am not learning” Be a quick study and invest the time required to learn new things rapidly. In my career, I have had to rapidly learn about industries and capabilities, allowing me to lead departments through massive changes and help large organizations make crucial brand-impacting decisions on investments in people, facilities, and technology with global implications.

3. Why are you running for this office?

The opportunity to serve and help the District prepare for accelerated growth in service demands coming soon while being fiscally responsible. And to help the District become best in class and a model for other similar-sized Districts and develop into a wonderful place to work and grow for the employees.

4. What is the solution to all the turmoil the board has experienced over the last several years?

Getting to a 5-person board is a good start from a continuity perspective. Ensuring the Board has focus on what a Board is designed to do. As I see it the Board's duty is to represent the citizens of the District and help the department prioritize and execute the right investments in people, equipment, training, and facilities. I do not see it as the Board's responsibility to “run” the district. We should have (and do have) experienced and competent leaders responsible for carrying out the District's plans.

5. What is the single most difficult challenge the fire district is facing?

Beyond getting a functioning board, my observation is we experience a lot of turn-over amongst the firefighters. We hire them, train them, and let them grow their experience and then lose them to other districts or departments. It has always been my experience that high turnover is expensive and can create serious challenges with the ability to deliver service. I believe we have an opportunity to be a “destination” for great firefighters instead of the “source” feeding other departments.

6. How long have you lived in the district and have you ever been employed or served as a volunteer firefighter?

I have had a place here at the Lake in Porto Cima since 2014 and have been full time since the summer of 2017. I haven’t been a firefighter either professionally or as a volunteer.

Laurie Preator

1. Have you ever held any type of public office?

I have never run for or held any type of public office and do not consider myself a politician. I was raised in a family of civil servants- teachers, police officers, military members, and volunteers.  In my family we were taught to be involved and help to make your community a better place to live.

2. What makes you qualified for this position?

I feel I am qualified for the board seat due to my background in law enforcement and in business management.  I was a police officer for The City of St. Peters for nearly a decade and a half where I reached the rank of master patrol, was a certified first responder, Field Training Officer, DARE/SRO officer, and ran the city’s explorer program.  I served my city well. After relocating to the lake area, my husband, Kelly, and I have run several successful businesses including The Branding Iron.  I have a clear understanding of both, what is needed by our first responders and how to effectively manage the costs/budget of that without endangering that responder or the citizens who count on him/her.

3. Why are you running for this office?

I have been attending board meetings for several years now.  The situation, as it exists now on the board, has compromised the safety of every firefighter and citizen in this district.  I could sit by and allow others to help solve it, or I can stand up and do my part.  I wasn’t raised to sit by.

4. What is the solution to all the turmoil the board has experienced over the last several years?

I feel that the “us against them” attitude must stop.  There must come a point where the safety of the community and the firefighters are put first. There has been a failure to compromise to make that happen.  I think there is middle ground in every situation and I think it needs to be found, quickly.

5. What is the single most difficult challenge the fire district is facing?

Other than the safety issue that exists right now, I feel the biggest challenge is going to be adequate staffing and staff retention.  The overwhelming increases in permanent residents, new businesses and visitors we have experienced over the past year has generated a large increase in calls for service, mutual aid calls, and inspections.  It is imperative that our district staffs appropriately for that increased demand.  I would rather be ahead of the demand than struggling to catch up to it later.

6. How long have you lived in the district and have you ever been employed or served as a volunteer firefighter?

I have lived in the district since 2012 and in the lake area since 2005. I have never served as a firefighter or a volunteer firefighter.

Robert Dye.

Robert Dye

1. Have you ever held any type of public office?

No, I have not. I never felt the need to run until now.

2. What makes you qualified for this position?

I have had past non-profit board experience, serving as a Trustee, Region Vice President and eventually corporate Secretary of a 501c(3). This was a world-wide organization with over 23,000 members.  As such, I am used to working with people of various backgrounds and philosophies.  I do have a Bachelors Degree in Business and Industrial Administration which helps me understand the budget process and balance sheets.  I served 6 years in the US Navy, receiving an honorable discharge as an Electricians Mate First Class.  I have been through fire training and worked the hoses back in the day.  I have a feel of what firefighting involves.  I retired from a major commercial insurance company as a Certified Safety Professional and part of my job was evaluating industrial fire risks and sprinkler systems. I know the value of ISO town class ratings for insurance costs and the need to maintain the district’s 4/10 rating. Although, it would be nice to slowly improve the area included in the class 4 rating.

3. Why are you running for this office? 

Seeing that the current board can’t get a lot done, I thought that I could help the district move forward as an independent voice, responsible only to the residents within the district. I decided not to seek any campaign donations and I have no connections with any group or others running for office. 

4.. What is the solution to all the turmoil the board has experienced over the last several years? 

The best thing was going to a five-member board.  Although, perhaps the seats should have been allotted to specific areas for a more representational board.  But then, candidates in certain areas could have been hard to come by.  

5. What is the single most difficult challenge the fire district is facing? 

Having a board that supports the fire fighters by providing them with up-to-date safety equipment and training.  There seems to be an issue of the district not able to keep fire fighters.  They get trained and move on.  Maybe that isn’t as big an issue as I have been told that it is.  Hard to say as an outsider.  One other big item – transparency.  Ever tried to contact a board member with concerns?  Contact information is not available form the district web page.  What to know the financial position of the district?  Not readily available.  Should be online.  Last audit?  Not known.  After the last change in treasurer, there should have been an audit.  I was told none has been done.

6. How long have you lived in the district and have you ever been employed or served as a volunteer firefighter? 

Although we are living on land my parents bought in 1962, we didn’t become full timers until a little over 10 years ago.  No, I am not, nor have I ever been a volunteer fire fighter.

Rick Butler

1. Have you ever held any type of public office?

I have not held any public office.

2. What makes you qualified for this position?

I have worked in several management positions throughout my career as a Pharmacist and a Manager.  I have been involved with all aspects of managing people from staffing,  resolving employee concerns, employee development to performance based management.   I have developed budgets,  held myself and my team accountable for high performance standards and I am a strategic thinker that makes sound business decisions based on facts.   I am a fiscally consertive person who is ready to work for the TAXPAYER. I feel I owe all my loyalty to the people of Sunrise Beach Fire District because it is our tax money that makes it financially feasible to continue to have a Great Fire Department. 

3. Why are you running for this office?

I would like to contribute more to the community that I have resided in for the last 14 plus years.

 4.  What is the solution to all the turmoil the board has experienced over the last several years?

Unfortunately I believe the Board has forgotten why they are there.  They are there to represent the TAXPAYERS of Sunrise Beach and to be good Stuarts of their tax dollars.  All personal issues should be left at the door!  Fire board meetings are open to the public for transparency and meeting times should be inclusive so as many members of our community can attend especially the working class folks who work regular jobs.  

5. What is the single most difficult challenge the fire district is facing?

I believe the biggest challenge is turnover among our firefighters.  I would like to find ways to encourage/incent our firefighters to become permanent fixtures in our community and/or make an attempt to recruit future firefighters from the community.    Having more firefighters reside in our community would not only help our community by having these great civil servants work and reside here but also I believe it would help reduce turnover.  

6. How long have you lived in the district and have you ever been employed or served as a volunteer firefighter?

I have lived full-time in our district for 14 plus years.  I have been a Registered Pharmacist for 25 years and worked for Woods Pharmacy, Sunrise Beach, for the last 7 years.  I am CPR/AED for Professional Rescuers certified.

I have been an Elk member for several years and have volunteered my time cooking for the Veterans Breakfast and working the Shootout.  I have never been employed or served as a volunteer firefighter.