For the first time in several years, South Metro Fire Rescue will be overseen by a board of directors directly elected by citizens. The sprawling fire protection district stretches from south …
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For the first time in several years, South Metro Fire Rescue will be overseen by a board of directors directly elected by citizens.
The sprawling fire protection district stretches from south Jefferson County to the prairie east of Parker, providing emergency services to more than 540,000 people.
The district absorbed two large fire districts since 2017: Cunningham, which included parts of Centennial and unincorporated Arapahoe County, and Littleton Fire Rescue, which included Littleton, Highlands Ranch and a swath of unincorporated Jefferson County.
During the lengthy process of absorbing the two districts, South Metro was overseen by a fire authority — like a board of directors, but with 12 members mostly appointed by local governments.
With the merger of the districts complete, South Metro will now be overseen by an elected seven-member board, with each member representing a district of between 50,000 and 60,000 electors.
Voters chose four members for the board on May 5: Sue Roche will represent District 1, situated between Parker Road and C-470. Roche won with 14,813 votes in unofficial results, defeating challengers Stanley Buehler and Muriel Williams-Thompson.
Jim Albee will represent District 3, covering much of west Centennial. Albee won with 21,006 votes in unofficial results, defeating challengers Mark Nelson and Mike Hill.
Cindy Hathaway, who ran unopposed, will represent District 4, covering Littleton and a chunk of south Jefferson County. Hathaway received 34,453 votes in unofficial results.
Renee Anderson, who also ran unopposed, will represent District 5, covering western Highlands Ranch and the Chatfield area. Anderson received 34,662 votes in unofficial results.
The newly elected board members will serve three-year terms because of a change in state law that alters when special district elections are held.
The remaining three districts will be overseen by Laura Simon, Bill Shriver and Hank Eng. Their seats will be up for elections in 2022.
Sue Roche, a CPR/first aid instructor and volunteer firefighter with the Franktown Fire Protection District, said she hopes to ensure that South Metro's equipment and apparatus meet the needs of the diverse district.
“You need a balance,” Roche said. “We have a vast district, with everything from rural areas to high rises, so we need to make sure we're being strategic so we can balance equipment needs with other programs.”
Roche said she's proud to serve with a well-trusted and nonpartisan government entity.
“Emergencies don't care which party you're registered with,” she said. “That needs to come across in every decision we make.”
Jim Albee, who works in finance, has sat on the South Metro fire authority since 2019, and previously sat on the board of Littleton Fire Protection District.
Albee said he hopes to remain focused on South Metro's core functions: maintaining good response times, training specialized teams to handle different situations, conducting inspections of businesses and workplaces, and ensuring financial sustainability.
Another focus: firefighter safety.
“First responders face cancer, heart disease, depression and suicide,” Albee said. “We need to stay focused on their health and well-being.”
Renee Anderson, who on May 5 also won reelection to the Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors, said it's important South Metro Fire be vigilant for how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact the district's finances.
South Metro is funded through a mill levy on property, and Anderson said if many businesses fail in coming years, the district could end up facing a budget shortfall.
“There are still a lot of unknowns,” Anderson said. “We need to be cautious with our budget while we wait for this to shake out.”
Anderson said she also wants to explore ways to boost turnout in special district elections.
“People don't always have the best or the most information on these sorts of elections, but they have a lot of impact on your life and your community,” Anderson said. “We see such small numbers vote on these boards. I want to see more people weigh in.”
Cindy Hathaway, also the executive director of Littleton's Western Welcome Week festival, said she hopes to work on boosting services at the far western edge of South Metro Fire's district.
“The Columbine area just has Station 13,” Hathaway said. “It's kind of an island. I hope to see what the district plans to do to keep services high out there.”
Hathaway previously sat on the board of Littleton Fire Protection District, and said she's excited to work with the fire service again.
“I'm really excited to get in there and see what South Metro is all about,” she said.
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