Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Fire department keeps Garcia chief

KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department last week re-elected Sergio Garcia as fire chief following complications with the qualification process.

Before Garcia was elected, he appealed to voters by boasting about his political skills and ability to educate supporters.

Running against Garcia was Mike Jenkins, the former president of the department's board of directors.

Despite the loss, Jenkins said he will not be leaving the department.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said.

About 50 members of the department cast votes in the election, some of which were made by absentee ballot. Each firefighter in good standing was called to the front where they picked up a ballot, circled their candidate and placed the ballot in locked black box.

The department did not announce the number of votes cast for each candidate immediately following the election. Free Press attempts to get a breakdown of the votes were not successful.

In a campaign statement to voters, Jenkins said he would not get rid of paid firefighters nor antagonize the Key Largo Fire-EMS District, which contracts with the department for services.

Fire Board President Frank Conklin described the election process as embarrassing, but fair. After the recent confusion over missing minutes and documents, and claims that Jenkins was not qualified under new rules that apparently were never codified, Conklin declared he is changing the board's reliance on digital technology alone.

Conklin said there needs to be a hard copy of all documents since they appear to get lost too easily.

"We've got to tighten up the paperwork issues," he said.

During the debate over Jenkin's eligibility, the Fire-EMS district called for a State Attorney's Office investigation into any potential wrongdoing. That call appears to have fallen on deaf ears as a transition in leadership takes place in the prosecutor's office.

Looking forward, Garcia said he will focus on improving recruitment and increasing training among younger firefighters.

"We have a few people that have now passed background checks," Garcia said with a laugh, noting that as a previous obstacle to recruitment.

During last week's meeting, the fire department also announced that its annual banquet will be Jan. 26 at the Marriott Resort.


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