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ORFD Deputy Chief Ready For Change

POSTED July 28, 2009 3:14 p.m.
  Five years ago, a young captain with years of tactical experience and a solid head on his shoulders was tapped, along with a then-administrative secretary, to assume the helm of the Oakdale Rural Fire District upon the retirement of long-time chief Bill Houk.

It was a temporary measure aimed at saving the beleaguered district much-needed cash until a fire initiative could be passed for an infusion of additional funds.

As luck would have it, the administrative secretary was offered a better opportunity with another agency and the young captain was left to navigate the choppy waters alone when the fire initiative — though passed — did not provide enough money for the hiring of a full-time chief.

But he did it.

And he did it well.

Only, it’s time for Rob Hoyer to relinquish the wheel and return to his captain’s post.

The decision came after much soul-searching on Hoyer’s part. The chair he’s occupied for the past five years is ready for a new occupant and Hoyer is anxious to get back to what he truly loves — fighting fires.

“No official decision has been made yet,” Hoyer said, but he made his desire known to the members of the ORFD board a month ago to give them time to find a replacement. “It’s just not the right time for me. I have more things to accomplish but I don’t regret doing it. I appreciate the opportunity. The most difficult transition was being off the hose and away from the muck of things.”

No one, least of all Hoyer, anticipated that he would need to fill the post this long and when Hoyer sat down and took a hard look at the future, he couldn’t see when things might change. That’s when he knew it was time to bow out before his window closed permanently.

“When is the right time to make a dramatic change? I was trying to hang on until other things happened but the long and short of it is we can’t afford to keep three stations and the writing is on the wall,” Hoyer said. “The district needs some fresh ideas. When I saw all the issues that were lining up…I knew this was the best decision.”

And no one can say that Hoyer didn’t give the district everything he had and more. He’s taken the hits from unhappy residents, pinched and cut to prevent the brown-out of a station, he kept late hours and remained on-call, and he endured the inevitable distancing from his former peers when hard choices had to be made.

“I wasn’t just warming the seat for the next guy. We got a lot done in the last five years,” Hoyer said.

Among the things he won’t miss are the budget headaches and tensions that often crop up when having to be the one who says “no.”

“There was no honeymoon period for me,” Hoyer said. “I was behind the eight-ball because I came from within but I gained a lot of experience and it was well worth it.”

It seems an odd thing to willfully go from the top dog to a lower position but as part of the deal Hoyer negotiated with the district, he continued to accrue time as a captain so it will be as if he never left the position.

Hoyer has asked for a Sept. 1 deadline and the district has already received almost a dozen applications for the job but Hoyer has promised he won’t step down until the district has made their selection.

“I’m not going to leave the district high and dry,” he said, though he admits the decision gave him a sense of liberation and he’s considering bumping up his credentials for the future. “It was like two tons of bricks fell off my shoulders. I’m going out with a smile on my face.”

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