Steamboat fire chief resigns for job in Montana

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Ron Lindroth

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Joel Rae

— Ron Lindroth said leaving his position as chief of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue had “absolutely nothing” to do with the ongoing issues between the city and rural fire district that surrounds it.

Instead, Lindroth said the timing of his decision to take the same position with the Central Valley Fire District in Belgrade, Mont., was coincidental. The city has been discussing whether to consolidate with the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District, which contracts with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue to provide fire and emergency services to the rural areas immediately surrounding Steamboat.

“We’ve watched the community as well as the fire department and thought it would be a lifelong dream to live and work in that community,” Lindroth said about he and his wife, Racquel. “It offers us opportunities, both personally and professionally. When the opportunity arose, we thought we’d give it a try, and we were successful in that.”

Lindroth said his family has been vacationing in the Gallatin County area, in southwest Montana near Yellowstone National Park, for years.

City Manager Jon Roberts said Thursday morning that he accepted Lindroth’s resignation Wednesday. It was effective immediately.

Kathy Connell, president of the rural fire district’s board of directors, said she hated to see Lindroth leave.

“He, in his short tenure here, brought us a lot: new thinking, new ideas and a new level of professionalism,” she said. “It was a step we needed to take. I wish him well.”

Roberts said Police Chief Joel Rae will become the acting director of public safety. EMS Battalion Chief Mel Stewart also was appointed acting deputy fire chief. Roberts said the city has no immediate plans to hire a permanent replacement for Lindroth.

Lindroth’s salary was $101,171.20. For his role as interim public safety director, Rae’s salary will increase to $101,000 from $93,329.

“I agree with the course that Jon Roberts had laid out for the short term, and I’m confident in Joel’s ability and the ability of the fire staff to function effectively at that time,” Steamboat Springs City Council President Bart Kounovsky said.

Connell, too, agreed with the decision to appoint Rae to oversee the fire and emergency services personnel until the city and district worked out the governance issue.

Before Lindroth joined the city in November 2009, the city had a director of public safety who oversaw the city’s police and fire operations.

Roberts said the city would return to that structure until it figures out what the governance structure for the city’s fire and emergency services is going to be.

The City Council recently heard a report from a consultant that evaluated local fire and emergency services in the city and district. The report included recommendations, but before considering those, City Council members wanted city staff and the rural district board of directors to prepare responses to the questions.

Kounovsky said he still expected to get those responses at the Feb. 7 meeting despite Lindroth’s decision to leave.

Roberts and Kounovsky thanked Lindroth for his service to Steamboat. They wished him the best of luck.

Lindroth said he will start relocating his family to Montana during the next month. He starts at Central Valley the first week in April.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to move forward and all it affords to our family,” Lindroth said. “We’re sad to be leaving close friends and the relationships we’ve built since we’ve been here. We wish nothing but the best for the city, district and the fire department as they move forward with their discussions. And we’re grateful to have been able to contribute to the community during our time here.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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