Fire safety has taken on even greater importance throughout California as destructive wildfire seasons have become an annual reality.
And the San Ramon Valley is not immune, especially with its scenic hillsides and open space surrounding many outer neighborhoods, plus preserved wildland around Mount Diablo on the community's doorstep.
It will take a well-informed Board of Directors with diverse experiences and perspectives to guide the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District as it addresses fire defense and prevention in addition to other key issues such as budget stability, personnel training, equipment management and public awareness.
With three at-large seats on the ballot, the best candidates to lead on the board for the next four years are incumbents H. Jay Kerr and Matt Stamey, and challenger Michelle Lee.
Kerr, who was first elected to the board in 2012, has prioritized balancing the budget, managing assets and pension planning during his tenure. With tough fiscal times likely ahead due to the pandemic, his institutional knowledge and individual focus on district finances will prove invaluable. We also appreciate that Kerr sees himself as representative for the entire district as community (and even neighborhood) division continues to persist; he takes to heart that this is the San Ramon Valley's fire district.
Lee has stood out in this campaign. An election newcomer, Lee gained critical experience with budgeting, leadership, personnel oversight and emergency response during an impressive career in the Air Force. Her priorities for the SRVFPD are spot on (fiscal sustainability, staff training and independent decision-making to name a few), but as importantly, she aims to elevate public engagement. And she's off to a great start, as the only candidate with an active campaign website. We see her as a true voice for the residents on the fire board.
Incumbent Stamey, who has sat on the board since 2009, brings a wealth of organizational management experience -- not only for the fire district, but from his long professional career as well. His track record of dedicated and effective service with SRVFPD speaks for itself, as do his continuing priorities of smart financial planning, managing growth, employee safety and ensuring the district always works to protect the residents and preserve property in its fire response.
The other challenger on the Nov. 3 ballot, Thomas Gallinatti, worked for three decades as a firefighter and manager with the Oakland Fire Department. He would no doubt offer good insights from his years of big-city fire response, but they haven't really borne out during this election season. We needed to see a more developed campaign from Gallinatti, with specific goals and detailed proposals while also engaging the public since he's a first-time candidate.
Vote H. Jay Kerr, Michelle Lee and Matt Stamey for SRVFPD Board of Directors.
Editor's note: The DanvilleSanRamon.com editorial board reached its decisions based on email interviews on endorsements, and our review of past reporting and research.