Russian River firefighters say board recall has support

If polling paid for by a firefighters' union is accurate, Guerneville-area residents are on their way to electing new board leadership for the Russian River Fire Protection District.

The recall vote less than two weeks from now comes in the wake of political upheaval last fall over the dismissal of the district's chief, Max Ming.

But supporters said it's driven, as well, by longtime grievances about the district board and what they describe as micromanagement, secrecy and disrespect toward firefighters and the public.

Several board members, including the recall targets, said the vote is a power grab by the union.

The fire district has a history of political tumult, including a complete recall of the board in 1990, frequent board resignations and a revolving door through which more than a dozen fire chiefs have passed since the mid-1980s.

The county election's office says about a fifth of the area's voters already have cast mail-in ballots to be counted toward the April 8 election.

Firefighters and their allies hope to oust two sitting board members and install a pair of replacements. The recall targets Kevin O'Shea, who once served as fire chief in Guerneville and Bodega Bay and has been on the board since 2002, and vice president Linda Payne, who operates a San Francisco daycare center and has served 3 1/2 years on the board.

Seeking election to their seats are Chuck Limbert, a San Francisco police lieutenant, and retired Alameda County firefighter Mark Emmett. Both are Guerneville residents.

A telephone poll by well-known Sonoma County political consultant Herb Williams puts support for the recall at 80 percent or more, said Fire Capt. Ryan Lantz, president of the firefighters' union.

"It looks like the basketball term — slam-dunk," recall supporter Lloyd Guccione said.

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