When members of this volunteer fire department were choosing a new chief, they found themselves in a dead heat with both candidates garnering equal numbers of votes in a two-way tie. Their town council had to break the deadlock.
Glenn Littlejohn has had to make hundreds of decisions over the years, but none quite as tough as having to decide between two credible candidates for the position of Fire chief.
However when members of the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department found themselves in a dead heat the Bay Roberts mayor, along with members of the town council, was forced to make the decision for them.
Last Monday Feb. 1 the mayor, along with deputy mayor Philip Wood, told members of the fire department Clarence Russell would be remaining in the chief ’s chair. Russell has been chief for the past eight years, while his opponent, Doug Mercer, served as lieutenant and assistant fire chief.
“Deciding who would be the chief was not an easy decision and it wasn’t one council wanted to make, but we had no choice,” said Littlejohn. “ The department voted a couple of times the week before and each time it resulted in a twoway tie. With no formal process in their constitution to solve the dilemma, the decision then came to council.”
Both Russell and Mercer are long-time members of the department. This made council’s decision even more difficult.
“Any time you have two highly qualified, dedicated individuals competing for the same position, it makes deciding between them even more difficult,” said Littlejohn. “ They’re both welltrained and bring a lot of good qualities to the
Deadlocked department and like all members they’ve both given countless volunteer hours. This was not a decision council took lightly.”
Members of the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department first cast their ballots for Mercer and Russell during the organization’s annual election of officers, Monday Jan. 25. When the vote ended in a tie, members cast their ballots a second time, but the numbers stayed the same.
“ They were deadlocked,” said Littlejohn. “In many cases when a tie occurs and a second vote takes place there’s a good chance someone might change their mind and vote differently, but that didn’t happen in this situation so they brought the decision to council.”
Having to break a tie for the position of fire chief is not a common occurrence among town councils.
“It isn’t something many mayors or councils have to do very often,” said Littlejohn. “ I’ve chaired hundreds of meetings on various committees and this was the first time I encountered something like this. I also checked it out with several government officials and they’ve never had to break a tie like this one. It was unique, that’s for sure, but also necessary.”
Members of the town council discussed the position of fire chief during a privileged meeting Jan. 26.
“Council wanted time to review both applications and give it all some serious thought,” said Littlejohn. “ They weighed all the information and in the end voted for Clarence.”
The mayor admits he wishes the fire department had been able to resolve the issue amongst themselves, but also says they were very respectful of council’s decision.
“ We knew going into the meeting with them last Monday (Feb. 1) at least 50 percent of them weren’t going to be happy with our decision, that’s just the reality of the situation,” said Littlejohn. “ But they were all very respectful and despite the fact that half of them didn’t like our decision, their focus was on the department and their role as firefighters. It was all about answering to the call and their loyalty to the department and to the town. It was a very healthy meeting and I was truly inspired.”
Meanwhile Mercer accepted the position of assistant fire chief.
“He was nominated for the position and by accepting it showed everyone that he was not only putting the interest of the department ahead of any disappointment he might have been feeling, but is also willing to work together for the betterment of the department and town,” said Littlejohn. “It was quite admirable. Both these men want only the best for the fire department.”
The Bay Roberts Fire Department has been serving the town and surrounding areas for over 60 years. It currently has over 30 members, two pumper trucks, two rescue trucks, and one fire van.
Littlejohn says the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department is an essential and valuable organization in the town.
“Being a firefighter is a very demanding volunteer role and there’s a great expectation on those volunteers from the public,” he said. “Not everyone can or is willing to take on the huge responsibility that comes with being a firefighter where you are called on all hours of the day and night, have to attend all kinds of events and direct traffic at everything from funerals to parades. I’m not sure if our firefighters even realize how much they are valued and respected. A town like ours just wouldn’t be able exist without them.”
Photo courtesy of Bay Roberts Fire department ESSENTIAL SERVICE - The Bay Roberts Fire Department has been serving Bay Roberts and surrounding areas for over 60 years.