South Whidbey Fire/EMS hires first female deputy chief

South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Wendy Moffatt receives her new badge from district Commissioner Kenon Simmons during a business meeting Thursday.

For the first time in its history, South Whidbey Fire/EMS has a female deputy chief.

Wendy Moffatt, former EMS division chief, was officially promoted to deputy chief one rank below chief at the fire district’s monthly meeting on Thursday. In a short ceremony, district Commissioner Kenon Simmons took her old badge and presented her with a new one. Chief Rusty Palmer was also present, and noted that not only was Moffatt the district’s first female division chief but is one of just a few in the state.

“I’m ecstatic, thrilled and excited and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Moffatt, in an earlier interview with The Record. “I taught professionally at a college in the past, so I have a lot of training experience both on the EMS side and the fire side. My past experiences have prepared me for this role.”

She replaces Deputy Chief Jason Laughren, who plans to “relocate to a warmer climate.” Laughren joined the district in January 2016 from Florida. His last day was Friday, Oct. 14.

“My family always wanted to travel, so we figured, ‘You know what? Now is a good time because you never know if tomorrow will be here,’” Laughren said. “It’s a new adventure in our life and the department has been very good to me. There are awesome people that work and volunteer here.”

Laughren’s departure resulted in a reshuffling of leadership roles within the district. Moffatt will take over training duties for the district, overseeing the EMS academy and fire academy. Deputy Chief Mike Cotton will take over Laughren’s role in charge of operations at the district and will continue to oversee safety and I.T. Deputy Chief Jon Beck will stick to his duties in charge of equipment. The EMS division chief role left behind by Moffatt’s promotion will remain vacant for the time being.

“His (Laughren’s) departure created an opportunity to reshuffle the staff to play to the strengths of the team,” Palmer said. “We’re going to miss him a lot. He brought a different perspective to the team we often get caught up in the organization as we know it.”

Although her role within the district is larger with the promotion, Moffatt says she is fully prepared for the position. Moffatt joined South Whidbey Fire/EMS in June 2015 with more than 20 years in the fire service. She was an experienced academy instructor, training both firefighters and EMTs. She plans to utilize those skills in her new training role within the district.

Moffatt added she never thought about being the first female deputy chief at South Whidbey Fire/EMS, but it’s exciting to “pave the way.”