As fire service costs continue to increase each year, several districts statewide— including Woodinville— are opting for consolidation to save money for taxpayers.
Both candidates for position 3 on the Woodinville Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners agree that regionalization of fire services is essential. Renton Fire Marshal Anjela Barton is facing incumbent Tim Osgood in the general election on Nov. 2.
On Oct. 1, WF&R entered a 10-year contract with Eastside Fire & Rescue to reduce operational costs and eliminate redundancies between the two organizations. This decision follows a failed merger between WF&R and Northshore Fire Department in April 2021.
Barton, who is endorsed by the local firefighters union, believes her opponent showed a lack of ethics during merger discussions earlier in the year, she said.
“I didn’t think I would run for public office,” Barton said. “But over the last year when Woodinville Fire was looking to merge with Northshore Fire, there were a lot of things that came out of that process that are directly tied to my opponent.”
Osgood argues the proposed merger would have resulted in a temporary pay cut for firefighters as well decreased services.
“The communities down in Lake Forest Park and Kenmore rightfully rejected the merger, it was a very bad proposal,” he said. “In my career, I've never seen that strong of a rejection on any sort of proposition like that.”
Barton alleges that Osgood, a retired Northshore firefighter and elected WF&R commissioner, remained active in negotiations about contracts and pay for the proposed merger. She said this would have directly impacted his employment.
“Instead of removing himself from those discussions, as an employee of Northshore Fire, he negotiated his own pay and contract,” she said. “Government is not supposed to work that way.”
Barton continued, “unfortunately nobody at the state level regulates local politicians so it’s really up to us, the voters, to do that.”
Osgood countered that he was not “on duty” as a Northshore firefighter, as he was on disability leave that brought forth his retirement.
“That’s irrelevant,” he said. “I’ve always been a firefighter [at Northshore] and a fire commissioner in Woodinville for over 24 years. We have dealt with issues, very similar issues, all throughout my different terms.”
After four terms on the commission— each lasting six years— Osgood is hoping for a fifth. He first joined the WF&R Board of Commissioners in 1996.
Woodinville had just formed as a new city when Osgood first became interested in joining the fire commission, he said. One of the first items of city business was to essentially create a fire district for Woodinville.
“That was something I had an interest in formulating,” he said. “Not only the fire district policy, but the partnership that would naturally form.”
Osgood has 34 years of experience as a firefighter for the Northshore Fire Department, which serves Kenmore and Lake Forest Park. He recently retired in May 2021.
If reelected, he said, he would prioritize an efficient transition to the Eastside Fire contract. Barton, who shares a similar opinion, believes supporting the firefighters and other commissioners will be essential. She said the contract has several benefits for the community.
“To have a smooth transition is imperative,” she said. “Having a board that trusts each other and works well together is important.”
Barton said the contract is a “great opportunity to save taxpayers money.” She predicts this new partnership will save an estimated $1 million each year and about $15 million for the lifetime of the contract, she said.
Fire departments support the public in more ways than putting out blazes, she said. As fire marshal during the COVID-19 pandemic, she helped brainstorm ways to keep local restaurants and businesses afloat. One idea included waiving various permit fees for Renton businesses throughout 2021 and into 2022, she noted.
“It’s important to keep people open and operational because they pay their property taxes,” she said. “Do we really care about the permit fees at the same level of keeping businesses operational? Probably not.”
Barton said diversity, equity and inclusion in the fire service is an important topic to her. She would like to provide more opportunities for students to learn about fire service careers.
“It’s exciting to see young women being able to say, ‘That’s a profession I’m interested in, and I can do it,’” she said.
Right out of high school, Barton became a wildland firefighter in Alaska, she noted. Afterward, she served as an Air Force firefighter for six years. Barton moved to Washington in 1996 after accepting a position at the State Fire Marshal’s Office, she noted, which is a part of the Washington State Patrol.
As an assistant state fire marshal, she helped develop firefighter training programs, inspected state-licensed care facilities and led state-wide mobilization efforts during wildfire season, Barton said. After more than 19 years at the office, she joined the Renton Regional Fire Authority as a fire marshal about seven years ago.
“I have a pretty diverse background in fire service topics,” Barton said. “I’ve never been focused in one area.”
Throughout his 34-year career at Northshore Fire, Osgood said, he continued to rise in the ranks. From his time serving the community, he prioritizes “responsive readiness” and adapting to the rapidly growing downtown areas in Woodinville.
“The city has steadily increased in population,” Osgood said. “There are major concerns of how we provide future services to the downtown core.”
Another priority for Osgood is hiring new personnel to replace those who retired or left the department, he stated.
“If [voters] think I've been doing a great job representing their needs by making sure that our department is being run the way that they feel that it needs to be done, then I would ask for their vote,” Osgood said.
Voters in King County will receive ballots for the general election by mail on Oct. 13. To learn more about each candidate, visit the voters pamphlet.