At the July 15 Mayer Fire District board meeting, board members interviewed candidates and selected Jack Williamson and Dan Ashton to fill the vacancies created by the resignations of former members Chris Cavanaugh and David Baudek.
Ashton is a fire captain with the City of Maricopa, south of Phoenix. He started as a volunteer 17 years ago, and went full time after seven years, becoming that city's first fulltime firefighter employee.
Ashton and his wife bought a home in Spring Valley about a year ago, intending to retire there.
"On my days off, we'd go up there. We just fell in love with community and people. We moved up full time in February," he said.
Since he works a 48/96 hour schedule - working two days on, four days off - Ashton said the drive wasn't too bad. People living in east Mesa, for instance, spend more time on the freeway than he does commuting from Spring Valley.
While living in Maricopa, Ashton said he served on the school board and also with the Seven Ranch Community water board. He likes being involved in, and helping out, the community. He recently volunteered with the Mayer Daze event.
He is studying the Mayer Fire District history, especially its economic challenges.
"I take my hat off to the whole district, the governing board, chief, men and women - people with the boots on the ground. They are doing so much with so little," Ashton said.
He is three or four classes away from earning his associates degree in fire science. He acknowledges that education is important, and adds, "It's what's in a person's heart. As long as they do the best for the challenge, they can accept that that's good enough."
Ashton will be working his shift at the Aug. 19 board meeting, but will be present by telephone if he is not out on a call.
Williamson is a longtime resident of Mayer and served as a volunteer with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office for a number of years, which provides "a good background in working with people," he said.
"I saw the fire department change from a volunteer group to the current formal structure," he said by email over the weekend. "This gives me an insight as to what can work and what has been tried and failed."
Williamson said he applied for the MFD board seat to help with the decision-making process.
"Things seem to have taken a long time for decisions to be made, and I feel that negotiation and compromise can resolve the conflicts and get things done," he said.
Williamson said the downturn in the economy is a big obstacle to the department with the dramatic decrease in income.
"The biggest challenge is to provide the same level of service to the community without creating a budget override to present to the voters," he said.
"As the economy improves, my goal will be to work toward restoring the benefits the firefighters have given up to maintain current service levels with the lower budget. I feel a smooth running board can accomplish this."