Fire commissioners add two new faces to board

The Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Board of Fire Commissioners welcomed its two newest members during its monthly meeting on Monday, March 20.

“We have two very qualified people now on the board of commissioners,” said board chairman Wes Heinmiller. “We’re looking forward doing the best we can do to keep the community safe.”

Tim Fuller and Jim Helminski joined the board, filling the seats that were created by a measure on the February ballot. Seventy-one percent of voters chose to expand the number of commissioners from three to five, making it the largest board of fire commissioners in San Juan County. The existing board consisted of Amanda Montague, Barbara Bedell and Heinmiller.

Fuller, who spent his entire career in public service, began working for the Saint Paul Fire Department in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1971.

“I went up through the ranks, through just about every position in the department, including creating the first office of emergency medical services for the City of Saint Paul,” he said.

After 20 years with the department, Fuller worked as fire chief for 12 years. He then followed his wife out west, where she got a job with the Seattle Seahawks. The mayor of Redmond, Washington called and asked if Fuller would be the city’s fire chief. He accepted. From 2005 to 2011, Fuller was the fire chief for the City of Redmond Fire Department.

“I had a lot of experience with the fire commission,” he said.

Fuller has dedicated much of his free time to serving on community boards. He was a member of the Pike Place Market Foundation and the Orcas Medical Foundation. He’s also been a member of the board of the International Association Of Fire Chiefs. Currently, Fuller is the OPAL Community Land Trust Vice President.

“My strong suit is developing relationships and engaging very clear and transparent communications; all of that developed on trust,” he said, adding that his way of operating is: “‘Why don’t we start with the truth and we’ll work from there.’”

With Fuller sworn in as part of the board, the commission then chose Helminski to fill the second seat.

“You’re probably saying to yourself, ‘what does a guy who wears a suit and puts a thing in his ear and wears sunglasses have to do with running a fire department?’” asked Helminski during his public interview with the commissioners.

Helminski worked in law enforcement for 36 years, with 27 of those years serving as a special agent for the U.S. Secret Service.

“I’m a big fan of transparency within government,” he said, explaining why he felt he was the right choice for the board. “I’ve been a fly on the wall in many cases of when transparency wasn’t happening and that seems to be when things start to dissolve and go bad.”

While he was employed with the Secret Service, Helminski held several titles, including Deputy Assistant Director.

“I feel like I have the qualifications to be a member of this board. I know there are two positions; I feel like I am only right for one,” said Helminski, who then endorsed the selection of Fuller to fill one of the positions. “When you have somebody such as Tim Fuller who has run two fire departments – major fire departments – if OIFR was a patient and we were doctors, I’d be a general practitioner and Tim would be the surgeon.”