CKFR's West to trade his fire engine for a Harley

"Riding into the sunset on a Harley Davidson is many people's dream.Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue (CKFR) Chief Executive Officer Richard West will get the chance to actually do that, with other members of the Silverdale chapter of the Harley Owners Group, after he retires at the end of this month.One thing I've wanted to do ... is get on a cycle, take a couple of friends, and if I want to go to Wenatchee to have coffee, I can do it without worrying about being at a meeting on Monday, West said.Another anticipated treat is visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. and the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.I'm a sports addict. Those are some of the things I'll be able to go and do that I haven't. But my wife (Bonita) for vacations will still want to go to Hawaii or on cruises, so I'll do that too, he said with a laugh.A special retirement reception for West is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. today, May 23, at the Silverdale Community Center, 9729 Silverdale Way. The occasion will include a special presentation to the chief at 5 p.m. West is originally from Milwaukie, Ore., southeast of Portland. It was not the vocation he originally planned to enter, but he's leaving a career distinguished by many accomplishments. Among them is bringing pre-CKFR Fire District 1 out of the red and into a balanced budget.I accomplished everything I ever wanted to accomplish, he said.He also has been president of the Kitsap County Fire Chiefs Association, president of the Wshington State Fire Chiefs Association, president of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, and board member of the International Fire Code Institute (IFCI). He also recently was elected to serve another term on the board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.He became a firefighter before fighting fires became scientific, when the men were still called smoke eaters.In fact, that was the name of our department, when he joined the Milwaukie Rural Fire Protection District No. 56 in 1963, West said.I heard our community needed volunteers. My next-door neighbor was a volunteer, and suggested I join, West said. I was drawn in because my neighbor challenged me to become a volunteer. He never looked back. West scuttled plans to become a certified public accountant, and changed from a business law to a fire science major. Four years after he signed on as a volunteer, he was hired in the dispatch center in January 1967. By April, he was a firefighter.He advanced through the ranks, becoming assistant chief in 1976. In 1981, he heard about an opening for chief in Kitsap County Fire District 1 in Silverdale. As an extra incentive, he also had two children from a previous marriage living in Silverdale, attending Central Kitsap High School.West applied, tested for the position and was chosen Feb. 1, 1981.My biggest challenge was bringing District 1 into a balanced budget, he said.His secretary for 10 years, Joy Grindeland, remembered that challenge well. She worked for the county treasurer when West first arrived 20 years ago.The district was on what was known as coupon warrants, interest-bearing warrants issued by the treasurer's office, to pay their bills with. The warrants would go to the bank and be held until the district could afford to redeem them. They were virtually borrowing money on a monthly basis for operations when (West) came here, Grindeland said.West's initial training in finance paid off.He virtually turned it around fiscally until now it's solid, she said.The district has grown from nine employees - six firefighters, one mechanic, and two administrators - to 75 full-time staff, not counting volunteers, during West's tenure.Making West's retirement reception even more special will be the attendance of his mother, who still lives in Oregon.I think my mother thought I was crazy, he said. She didn't think it would last long, that it was a fad when he first volunteered as a firefighter.She was quite proud of my accomplishments, in that I became a chief, West said. She was there when I started, and she said she'd be there when I gratuate (to retirement). "

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