by KIM HILSENBECK
After more than 33 years with the Kyle Fire Department, Chief Glenn Whitaker is calling it quits.
“It’s a resignation not a retirement,” Whitaker said in an interview Tuesday morning.
Whitaker submitted his resignation letter, effective Feb. 25, at Monday night’s Emergency Service District (EDS) meeting.
That letter said, in part, “After probably hundreds of hours of thought on my part, lots of times at night when trying to go to sleep, relax or whatever, I have finally decided that it is past time to leave the Kyle Fire Department.”
His wife, Doris, who is the department’s bookkeeper, also resigned, effective on the same day as Whitaker’s. He said part of his decision to leave has as much to do with his wife as with him.
“It’s mostly the attacks,” he said. “They think we make too much money and the fire fighters don’t. Several board members feel Doris is overpaid.”
“They” are members of the ESD. But he said former members of the department’s Board of Directors, or fire board as it’s known, as well as some paid staff and volunteers, have insinuated the same thing.
“It’s the constant accusations and we’re just tired of it,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker said in his resignation letter that he should have left when the vote came at the Kyle Fire Department Board of Directors meeting to fire him. That vote in May 2012 did not result in being fired; three fire board members voted yes, three voted no and one abstained.
“But I wanted to stick with it thinking things would get better but things have only just changed,” he wrote.
Since then, control of the department changed to be under the Emergency Service District. The fire board was not dissolved entirely but those members no longer had control of the chief’s job.
But things did not improve for Whitaker. To a certain extent, he said he feels he has no longer has control over his own department.
“ESD is taking over day-to-day operations,” Whitaker said.
Regarding why he made the decision to leave now, he said, “There’s a long list of stuff.”
Whitaker used some examples to illustrate of how the ESD wants to make changes and, as he said, “do all kinds of stuff.” The most recent one that broke the camel’s back, Whitaker said, involved repairing a fire engine that had continuous mechanical problems.
His staff got several bids to either repair the current problem at a cost of just under $10,000 or replace the chassis completely, which would be about $60,000 when all was said and done. He said his staff all agreed the replacement was needed to avoid future problems with the engine.
Whitaker said his wife was able to find unallocated money in the budget to put toward the replacement cost so it would not require asking the ESD for additional money.
At Monday’s meeting, ESD board member Mike Fulton, also a volunteer firefighter with the department, made a motion to repair the problem because it was less expensive.
Fulton said in an interview that there were questions about the unallocated money. Four months earlier during the budgeting process, he said, the bookkeeper, Doris Whitaker, had not accounted for those funds, citing delays in payment that are typical during the budgeting cycle.
“But it’s certainly not personal for me or anyone else on the board,” Fulton said.
Fulton said Whitaker has always had the autonomy to do whatever he wanted to do and “now this group of folks asks questions and calls him to the carpet every single month.”
“That is a giant irritant to him because it’s his department that he’s been a part of for so long…but it’s no longer that same department.”
“You expect the person running the department to have the answers,” Fulton said.
Despite this and other recent issues, Whitaker credited the ESD with having some useful ideas and suggestions.
“We’re addressing some of the issues but it’s not happening as fast as any of us want,” he said.
In a quick self-review, Whitaker said his running of the department has not been perfect.
“I could have been better. But I think I’ve done a fair job,” he said. “But it’s time for me to go. Things haven’t worked out. Things are different than the way they used to be.”
Fulton said he believes the ESD will call a special meeting this Saturday to appoint an interim chief.