KEY LARGO -- Two candidates have already secured seats on the Key Largo Fire-EMS District board next term due to lack of opposition.
Bob Thomas, 66, will begin his first four-year term on the board in November. Meanwhile, Marilyn Beyer, who has been on the fire board since it was formed in 2005, has been retained for a third term.
Both officially won their seats by default on June 8, when the candidates' qualifying period ended.
Thomas, owner of Key Largo Chocolates, said last week that he has two main goals for his term on the Fire-EMS board. Firstly, he'd like to tone down the contentiousness that often crops up between the firefighters of the Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department and the board members who hold the purse strings. The district contracts with the department to provide service to Key Largo.
"I'd like them to check their egos at the door," Thomas said of both parties. "I think that opposing views and dissension can be healthy as long as it is channeled properly."
Thomas also said he wants to push the district to stay more on top of its various grant opportunities and applications. He'd like individual Fire-EMS board members to be tasked with monitoring the progress of specific grant applications, so they don't get lost in the shuffle.
Thomas has no experience as firefighter or EMT, but said he pursued a spot on the board in order to serve Key Largo.
"I firmly believe in volunteering for community good," he said. Key Largo Fire-EMS commissioners make a $2,400 stipend annually.
Beyer, the former owner of what is now called the Beyer-Allen funeral home, said that keeping taxes low is one goal she has for her next term. Another priority is increasing local recruitment in the fire department.
"I would like to find volunteers, preferably local people, who will get involved in the department so we don't have to spend as much as money on Dade County people," Beyer said.
She explained that fuel costs are higher to bring volunteers down from Miami-Dade. Plus, local volunteers can more quickly respond to a fire call.
Beyer said she'd like to pursue grants that can help with local retention and find ways to make it more convenient for locals to complete the training required to become a firefighter.
Two Fire-EMS board seats remain up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election. Kent Van Winkle, a retired airline pilot, will face off against current Beyer-Allen funeral home owner Tony Allen for Seat 1 on the board. Van Winkle is making his second run after vying unsuccessfully for a board seat in 2010. Allen, a former marine, is making his first run for the office.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent Tom Tharp will square off against George Mirabella, a Florida Keys Electric Cooperative meter reader and a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Key Largo.