Letter: Mayor owes fire chief a public apology


I learned a long time ago to never have a discussion or write a letter when you’re angry or upset. Well, I’ve had a chance to cool off, so now I can tell you how I feel about the totally un-professional way Chief Ray Merrill departed the Oak Harbor Fire Department.

Chief Merrill was not un-professional….. the city was. The mayor didn’t even have the courtesy to refer to the chief as “chief” in his poorly written press release which, by the way, is how some members of the fire department found out their beloved boss was leaving.

Chief Ray Merrill was the most respected fire chief in northern Washington, he was an elected officer in many organizations that deal with fire related issues including but not limited to the Region Three Fire and Arson Investigative Task Force. Chief Merrill and Oak Harbor Fire were the agency that all the volunteer/combination departments in the area called for mutual aid when they needed help with fires, training or investigations.

Chief Merrill never turned down a request for help from the public or other departments. He made his station available for other departments to use for training or to test their fire pumps. Chief Merrill came to Oak Harbor in a tumultuous time and got things at Oak Harbor Fire running smoothly and efficiently. He worked tirelessly to save the city money while maintaining his equipment at the highest level of readiness.

I personally take offense at the mayor referring to Chief Merrill as “Mr. Merrill” in his poorly written press release that went out on Facebook. Evidently the mayor doesn’t watch TV! When the networks have retired military officers or past elected officials on as subject matter experts or to comment on a news situation their previous rank or title is on the bottom of the screen and they are referred to by last rank or title they held when they retired. Maybe the Mr. Wright needs to attend a class on professional etiquette.

Those of us that have served in the fire service feel that Mr. Wright owes Chief Merrill a public apology. Chief Merrill is and will always be a Chief to those of us that had the opportunity and pleasure of working with him over the years.

Jim O’Connor

Division chief,

Special Operations (retired)