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SKFR retiree to challenge Hartley for commissioner seat

Mike Eslava, of Olalla, plans to challenge incumbent Darla Hartley for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Commissioner Position 3 in the upcoming election.

Eslava worked at South Kitsap Fire and Rescue for 32 years, and volunteered with the fire department for 10 years before that, starting when he was in high school.

It came to an end in August, when he injured his back lifting a patient, he said.

But he got some ideas about how to improve the district while he worked there, he said, and he thinks he can put them to use if he’s elected.

“I’d like to see us progress to less overhead, less hierarchy and more line-firefighters on the job,” he said.

To cut down on overhead expenses, he says, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue should stay away from grant funding, he said, since that type of funding often carries costly mandates.

He saw an example of this while working at the fire department.

The department used a grant to buy a new, 100-foot ladder truck, he said, under a stipulation that they hire and maintain additional employees.

So, the department hired the employees to meet the quota, he said.

“We have to pass a levy to keep those people on,” he said. “I’m not in favor of that.”

And it’s not the only staffing decision he’d like the department to reconsider, to cut the department's overhead.

He sees the fire department’s current organization as “top-heavy” and says he’d like to cut down on some of the “brass.”

He favors a more thoughtful approach to hiring, firing and career placement, he said, that focuses on staffing stations with line-firemen.

“I think there needs to be a bit more strategic look at career placement, in the station, based on the need,” he said. “The people in Burley and Olalla have no aid for 14 to 15 minutes. I struggle with that.”

Eslava has lived in South Kitsap for his whole life, he says, and established his family here.

So he understands how some of these decisions can impact those living here, he says.

Eslava’s opponent, Darla Hartley, lives in Rocky Point Road, NW, at a Bremerton address.

Her address has drawn criticism, recently, from those who oppose a merger between Bremerton’s fire department and South Kitsap’s fire department.

She would take up one of South Kitsap’s leadership slots in a potential merger, but it would be in her personal best interest to align herself with Bremerton’s best interest, since she lives there, they argue.

Hartley is currently out of town, and not available to comment.

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