Former Payson Fire Chief Chuck Jacobs has come out of retirement to take on the role of administrator for the troubled Mesa del Caballo fire district.
Frank Hansen became the official fire chief of Mesa del on Jan. 16, just two days before the Gila County Board of Supervisors appointed Jacobs to take over the duties of the department's defunct board.
Hansen, who has been acting fire chief of the district for a year, said he was pleased with the appointment of someone outside the area.
"He comes without any preconceived ideas and we should have a period of rest, which will be good for the community," Hansen said Wednesday.
Hansen said the former three-member fire board became ineffective "because of all the infighting."
Jacobs said Thursday that state law reads that fire districts can have three-member boards or five-member boards. "If one of (the three-member board) should resign, two out of three fill the quorum. If one position is open, the supervisors can appoint someone."
On Dec. 31, two of the three Mesa del fire board members resigned. The remaining board member did not constitute a quorum and the fire district was left without a board.
"Chief Jacobs is the board now," Hansen said. "He was appointed by the County Board of Supervisors for an indeterminate amount of time. This is one way to let the dust settle and everything settle down. I have great hopes that we can get on with business and help the fire department move forward."
District One Supervisor Ron Christensen said Jacobs is the most qualified person to do the job. "I'm glad he agreed to do it," he said.
When the board was no longer viable, the Board of Supervisors could either call for another election or appoint an administrator.
Christensen said he isn't looking at Jacobs' appointment as a permanent solution and said November may be the time for an election so that the people of Mesa del could run their own department.
Jacobs, who retired after 22 years as Payson's fire chief in 1998, said, "I'm not one to retire. I'm always doing something. With my background, I almost felt obligated to do it. I know folks on all sides of the issues out there. I'm absolutely neutral. I'm just there to mind the store for a little while until they can have an election."
Jacobs' first day of work as administrator of the fire district was Jan. 20. He said people have been cooperative. "Nobody's yelled or screamed at me yet," he said. "So far, it's just the mundane things -- paying the bills and so on. The fire department is functioning out there. Frank is the one who's doing the job."
There are eight active fire/medical responders, three recruits, and a couple of people who act as support staff working with the volunteer fire department.
"We'd like to see some additional firefighters and we'd like to have some of the former fire fighters who still live in the area. We'd like to have some of those folks come back, too," Jacobs said.
Christensen said Jacobs knows the business and has a great number of managerial skills that he can use to pull together the department to provide fire protection, maintain equipment and bring back confidence to the taxpayers so they receive the benefits they're paying for.
"The supervisors leaned on me very heavily to recruit the person because it was in my district. They agreed with me that Chuck was the person to help the district through this very difficult time."