Kevin’s time at Orcas Fire will be remembered | Editorial

It is with a heavy heart that we write about Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien’s leaving Orcas Fire and Rescue for a chief position in Lake Stevens.

We congratulate him and his family on this new opportunity, but his departure will be deeply felt in the community. Not only was he at many community functions and parade, during his three years at the department he made significant changes.

Kevin created a long-term strategic plan, ran a successful levy renewal campaign, recruited new EMT and firefighter volunteers, streamlined the budget, completed the Deer Harbor construction project and collaborated on the Orcas Cares program, a partnership with local agencies to help care for the elderly and disabled.

He also weathered controversy – a string of devastating arson fires, a levy campaign, a DUI case involving an employee – with professionalism. And this leads us to what we will miss most about Kevin: his ability to reach out to the community.

As a public official, Kevin has been forthcoming and candid from his first day on the job. He sent us monthly fire chief reports with detailed information about calls and department news. He initiated quarterly newsletters that were mailed to every post office box on the island. When a major call occurred, Kevin sent the Sounder a press release and photos within a few hours. Anytime we wanted to write about the department, he was available for a sit-down.

We hope the department continues this open-door philosophy. Maintaining accountability to the public is critical for a taxpayer-funded entity. It makes for stronger emergency response and a healthier community.

Kevin’s new community is very lucky to have him, and we thank him for the three years of hard work he put into the Orcas Fire Department.