After serving 18 years and nine months on the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District Board, Elizabeth Brichetto has decided it’s time to do something else.
Brichetto, who filled the seat left vacant by Doug Tourtlotte in September 1991, knew nothing about fire service but she knew enough about running a business as her family’s agricultural holdings were quite large and expansive, so she figured she’d give it a shot.
“I had no fire experience but it’s a financial thing and a common sense thing,” Brichetto said. “I knew the district was having financial problems. That year the district spent $680,000 to make purchases for things they certainly needed but did not have the money for.”
An attempt was made to create a tax bond but it was shot down by 82 percent by the voters, Brichetto said.
The future looked pretty dim for the rural fire district until Bill Frias came and, as Brichetto put it, “pulled us out of a deep financial hole.”
“I give Bill Frias a lot of credit for our station still being here today,” she added.
For the past 18-plus years, Brichetto has operated on simple philosophies, ones that she has followed in her own business. Don’t buy what you can’t pay for and don’t spend what you don’t have.
“The district has always had financial problems,” Brichetto said. “But I knew how to run a business and it didn’t seem much different. You learn things when you deal with money and one of those things is you have to operate within your budget.”
Sharp and shrewd, Brichetto took to the unique needs and demands of fire service readily, weathering the ups and downs with a stoic attitude.
In that time she helped establish mutual aid within the county, fostering the solid working relationship between the various fire agencies; has seen the passage of a rural tax bond; and the successful culmination of a long-sought-after collaboration between Oakdale City and Oakdale Rural.
The successes have been hard-won and times are still difficult for the rural district, but for the first time since she took that vacant seat, Brichetto feels the district is in capable hands.
“It’s been an interesting almost 19 years,” she said. “This is a good time for me to go and get out. I haven’t felt this confident in years. Lee Winton knows how to run a fire station and knows how to get people to cooperate. And Danielle Denczek (administrative assistant) does an excellent job of keeping track of the budget.”
With Brichetto stepping down, her last official day being June 30, the board will consist of Sherry Schlegel, Betty Gripenstraw, and Don Armario.
Of course, Brichetto will miss certain things.
“When you’ve done something for almost 19 years, of course you’ll miss it. I will miss the personnel and the board members,” she said, adding ruefully, “But it wasn’t all fun and games. I wasn’t there for the money or the perks.”
However, when it’s time to go, it’s simply the right time and Brichetto is ready to pass the reins and let someone else drive.
“I’ve neglected my garden and I have some home stuff I need to do. I’m also very busy with a political group,” she said of her plans. “And I love to play bridge. I think I would like to see my of my friends, too.”
County Supervisor Bill O’Brien is looking to fill the vacancies on the Oakdale Rural Fire Board. Currently, there are no applications submitted for the positions. Anyone interested, may fill out this form: http://stancounty.com/bos/b&c/on-line%20application.pdf and submit it to the Stanislaus County Clerk of the Board by mail or in person at 1010 10th Street, Suite 6700, Modesto, CA 95354.