Deputy Pierce County prosecutor Bryce Nelson was appointed Thursday afternoon to Position No. 5 on the Board of Fire Commissioners of Pierce County Fire District 5.
The position was formerly held by Commissioner Scott Casebolt, who was hired as the fire chief in Tangent, Ore., a job he started on June 1.
On Wednesday, Nelson and two others — William Billings, a nearly 30-year veteran of Graham Fire & Rescue, and William Colberg, a recently retired Gig Harbor police officer — took part in a question-and-answer session at Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s headquarters at Station 50 on Bujacich Road NW that gave the public a chance to hear about the candidates in their own words and learn a little bit more about them.
“Right now I think we have three very good candidates,” Commissioner Tom Sutich said after the interviews were concluded. “It’s going to be a very difficult decision.”
Bryce will serve out the remainder of the term, which ends Dec. 31, 2015, according to Fire Chief John Burgess.
Here are what the candidates had to say at Wednesday's public interviews:
“I’ve essentially dedicated my career to public safety,” said Nelson, who works with the Special Assault Unit.
For Nelson, wanting to be considered for the commission makes sense.
“I think this is just an extension of who I am,” he said. “That’s who I am. It’s what I do every day. It allows me to do what I do every day, but in a different form.”
Nelson touted his legal background for the practical and unique perspective he said it would bring to the commission.
He cited his experience helping to craft legislative policy, as well as being involved with collective bargaining issues and budget decisions.
“Being a leader is being open to people,” he said, describing himself as someone who knows how to get along with people and ask for help if necessary.
Micromanaging is not his style, he said, adding he would not be about “boots on the ground involvement.”
“In court, it’s our job to tell the truth,” he said. “My ethical code is that I have to tell the truth.”
Nelson said he would bring that same attitude to the commission.
His time as a deputy prosecutor makes him a quick study on a variety of issues, he said, which would come in handy on the commission.
“I think my background lends itself to something like this,” he said.
Billings is a 28-year veteran of Graham Fire & Rescue — Pierce County Fire District 21 — who plans on retiring in either nine or 18 months, he said, depending on the economy.
A resident of Gig Harbor since 2007, Billings joked about the timing of his arrival in the Maritime City.
“I wanted to wait until there was a toll on the (Narrows) bridge,” he quipped.
Billings’ desire to be on the commission dovetails with his almost three decades of service in fire and rescue and his wanting to stay involved in the field in a different capacity.
“Fire service has been my life,” he said, adding he sees serving on the commission as a way to give back to the community without “being on the line.”
Describing his leadership style as “direct,” Billings said that as a representative of the citizens of the community he would make sure that taxpayers’ money was effectively utilized.
Citing his time at Graham Fire & Rescue, Billings touted his abilities as a problem solver who could “take emotion out of things and bring an objective view to the table,” as well as his heavy involvement in policy making throughout his career.
Billings described his vision of his role on the commission as someone who would be an overseer of taxpayer money in order to prevent any sort of waste, fraud and abuse when it comes to public funds.
Colberg, who retired in April after 32 years with the Gig Harbor Police Department and 42 years total in law enforcement, said he feels he can still be of service to the community he loves.
“I would like to assist in meeting the challenges the district faces,” he said, envisioning his role as an intermediary between the department and the people it serves.
Colberg described his leadership style as somewhere “between laissez-faire and micromanager.”
“I would say I let them to their job,” he said of people who work under him.
Colberg went on to state it’s important to be able to listen to listen, be fair and approachable, so as to avoid any rash decisions.
“Don’t make a quick decision or determination without gathering all of the facts,” he said.
Citing his lengthy law enforcement career, Colberg’s experience includes being one of the authors who updated the Gig Harbor Police Department’s policy manual on a regular basis and an extensive background in personnel matters.
Colberg said that during his more than four decades in law enforcement he had never been disciplined, a considerable achievement given the length of his time as a police officer.
“I’m not going to bring shame upon the district,” he said.
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gateway_brett.