Fire District 3 commissioners choose a new chief

FREELAND — A new fire chief to replace retiring Dan Stout has been selected by Island County Fire District 3 commissioners, it was announced at their meeting in Freeland on Thursday night.

He’s H.L. “Rusty” Palmer, 57, the current fire chief of the Jackson Hole, Teton County, Wyo. fire department.

“He has all the skills we’re looking for,” Kenon Simmons, commission chairman, said Friday. “It should be a smooth transition.”

Simmons said Palmer has been offered the job pending a physical and background check, and that a contract is being negotiated.

He said Palmer is scheduled to meet with district personnel next month, and to assume the post in January. Stout will retire in February.

Palmer’s selection was the culmination of a nationwide campaign by an executive-search firm in Oregon that was hired by the district.

Twenty-five candidates where selected by the firm, and the top six were interviewed this past weekend by a personnel team appointed by the district.

The team included current and former firefighters, two off-island fire chiefs and Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson. The top four candidates from that process were interviewed by fire commissioners on Monday, and a selection made, Simmons said.

Palmer has 33 years of fire-service experience, including 10 years as a volunteer. He also has extensive experience as a fire marshal and emergency medical services director, and in emergency planning and the handling of hazardous materials, Simmons said.

He said the Jackson Hole department is larger than District 3’s, and that Palmer has extensive volunteer-force experience.

“His particular skills and character are a good fit for us,” Simmons said. “We need a multifaceted person.”

Stout, 66, is retiring after 43 years, the past five with District 3. His current annual salary is $97,200.

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