Tim McKenna has been elected as the new fire chief in Galloway Township after current Chief Ron Garbutt chose not to run for re-election this year, Garbutt confirmed Wednesday morning, Sept. 5.
Garbutt, who has served as Fire Chief for three years, will continue to volunteer with the Germania Fire Department, and will remain fire marshal when his current term expires at the end of the year.
McKenna, the current Supervisor for Sewer Utilities in the Public Works Department, was elected to the position after running unopposed on Tuesday night, Sept. 4. He becomes Fire Chief effective Jan. 1, 2013.
McKenna is currently the Assistant Chief in Oceanville, and previously served as the Oceanville Fire Chief for 11 years. He's been a volunteer firefighter for 23 years, and an employee of Galloway Township for 24. An election must now be held to fill the Oceanville Assistant Fire Chief position.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," said McKenna, who has worked closely with Galloway's previous three fire chiefs. "I'm looking forward to moving forward. I have some ideas and goals I want to try."
“I’m going to take this year off and concentrate on my job,” said Garbutt, who’s entering his 33rd year as a volunteer with the Germania Fire Department. “I enjoyed it, but it just got to be too much.”
Since June 26 of this year, Garbutt has been charged with the responsibilities normally reserved for the department’s The previous assistant resigned after Liston proposed moving the position out of the fire department and into the construction office. This proposal and other mounting frustrations resulted in the assistant’s resignation.
Garbutt's been handling the responsibilities of the administrative assistant, including the handling of paperwork. He said a number of potential volunteers have also not been able to join the department due to the absence of an assistant.
“I think it’s time. We need to find someone to fill that position. I hope we can get someone to run the day-to-day operations,” Garbutt said.
"We're trying to get it done as soon as possible," McKenna said. "I hope we can all work together to get it done quicker."
Township Manager Arch Liston didn’t return a phone message seeking comment on Wednesday.
However, Garbutt added the fire department is still doing well.
“Membership is in good shape and the equipment is in good shape, so we’re doing OK,” Garbutt said. “ … We’ve got a good bunch of guys. We’ve got one of the best fire departments in the county. They clear trees, go out in hurricanes, handle fires. Whenever the whistle blows, our guys show up. They are always there whether it’s 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, they are there. Whether it’s zero degrees or 100 degrees, they are there and nobody complains.”
"We're OK now, but I'd like to see a couple more members," McKenna said. "It's hard for the average person because a lot of people are working two jobs now and young guys are working and going to school, trying to start a family."
McKenna emphasized the importance of long-term commitments to the fire department, as he said some members have been volunteering over 50 years.
According to Garbutt, the fire department hasn’t made any equipment purchases since 2008, due to cutbacks. Even though the equipment is in good condition, it will have to be replaced at some point “in the near future.”
"We've been keeping what we have in working order," McKenna said. "Down the line, we're going to have to start replacing things."
Garbutt added the department is exploring the possibility of a uniform set of by-laws. Currently, each of the five volunteer fire companies that constitute the department has its own set of by-laws. Instituting one set of by-laws would ease the pressure when it comes to litigation, Garbutt believes.
"We want to be more unified, not just in (having the same rules and regulations), but in doing drills and training," McKenna said. "We all work together as a team."
Garbutt hopes to have uniform by-laws in place before his term as chief expires.
“Ron Garbutt did a great job and he’s a great fireman,” Mayor Don Purdy said. “Tim McKenna’s a great stand-up guy and a great employee. … They’re both fire department bodies at heart. It’s great to have people that show that kind of heart and passion in that position.”