For the first time in its’ 18-year history, the Mapaville Fire Protection District has a full-time paid chief at the helm.
The district’s board voted 5-0 on November 19, to appoint Assistant Chief Dave Brown to the post.
A pinning ceremony was held on December 1, during the district’s annual Christmas party.
“The fact that it was a unanimous vote is significant,” board president Ron Beckett said. “I’ve been on the board since the district was created, and I watched him grow up. I have faith in him, his skills and abilities, his maturity. He’s the right fit at the right time for us.”
Brown, who lives in rural De Soto, will be paid $38,000 as chief and will have the use of a district vehicle.
“We did a study of neighboring districts of similar sizes to come up with his compensation package,” board member Annette Acre said. “(The package) includes the duty ride, insurance, vacation, sick pay, all of it.”
There were four applicants for the position, Acre said.
“There was no one who met every single qualification, but he came the closest,” she said. “He has most of what we need, plus he has the experience to back it up.”
Brown, 38, was a volunteer firefighter at Mapaville for a year or so as a teenager. He has been a firefighter/EMT and administrative captain with the Hematite Fire Protection District and a full-time firefighter/EMT with the Goldman FPD. Until taking the Mapaville job, he worked full time for the Missouri Department of Corrections facility in Pacific. He also serves as deputy chief of the Jefferson County hazmat team.
“He came on board (at Mapaville) in May as volunteer assistant chief to help with changes taking place,” Acre said.
Andy Brown (Dave’s father) was named interim chief in May, following the ouster of longtime Mapaville Chief Darryl Reed amid controversy that pitted Reed and several firefighters against the board and other staff. During that time, a recall petition was filed seeking to remove Acre from the board, and Reed filed a lawsuit against the district, alleging Sunshine Law violations.
The recall petition was certified in August but an October court ruling canceled the recall election. The lawsuit is awaiting a court date after several continuations.
Things have become calmer in the district in recent months, Beckett said.
“The transition was pretty well seamless, and Andy really hit the ground running,” Beckett said. “We’re all amazed at how much progress has been made.”
Both board members spoke of the positive, professional atmosphere now in place.
“We’re very excited,” Acre said. “We have a high number of our staff, even volunteers, with at least an EMT, and a lot are working toward a higher certification. That could mean lower insurance premiums for residents. And it means Mapaville is a safer place to live.”
Beckett characterizes recent months as a “complete culture change.”
Dream come true.
Andy Brown, 61, moves to the newly created post of fire commissioner, also a volunteer position. He will assist as the new chief transitions into his role.
“It’s always been a dream to work with my dad,” Dave Brown said. “This is my first time as a chief, and there’s a lot I don’t know yet. He’s lived this job, day in and day out, for the last six months so he will be a big help to me.”
Andy Brown knew when he came out of retirement to take the chief’s job that it was strictly temporary and did not put himself into consideration for the paid post.
“I wanted to get to the point where I wasn’t tied down full-time,” he said. “I don’t have any kind of limit to how long I will do this (the commissioner position); it’s indefinite. Whatever they need me for – administrative, operational – I’ll be available.”
The Mapaville Fire Association was formed in 1952, making its money from the sale of fire tags. In 2000, the tax-supported Mapaville Fire Protection District was formed, with an all-volunteer force.
A 50-cent tax increase passed in 2016 brought the district’s tax rate to its current $1.01 per $100 of assessed valuation, nearly doubling the district’s then-$260,000 budget and allowed for the hiring of full-time firefighters and staff.
Board members said the district no longer could get by with a part-time, volunteer chief.
“There are so many state regulations that have to be followed, a lot of paperwork, all the reporting,” Acre said. “We really needed someone who has the time to keep up with all of that. It takes a lot of time.”
The district serves 22 square miles in central Jefferson County, including some Pevely, Hillsboro and Festus mailing addresses.
“We have been behind the growth curve of other districts in the county,” Beckett said. “But now things are getting updated, modernized, brought up to speed. We’ve got people who understand the industry and have the skills to get things done and done correctly.
“Now we can hold our heads up with the other districts, and I look forward to this district getting better and better as time goes on.”