New Monarch Chief Has 23 Years of Experience
Monarch Fire Protection District's new leader, Thomas Vineyard, steps in as chief on Jan. 2. He transfers to Monarch from one of St. Louis County's busiest districts. New chief says Monarch firefighters have been drug through public image mud.
Thomas Vineyard takes over as Monarch Fire Protection District chief, effective Jan. 2, replacing retiring Clifford “Chip” Biele.
Vineyard, a St. Peters resident, has been with the Mid-County Fire Protection District since 1988. Mid-County was incorporated in the 1950s, originating from the Wellston Fire Protection District established in the late 1800s. The district serves St. Louis County, Greendale, Hanley Hills, Pagedale, Vinita Park, Vinita Terrace and Wellston.
Vineyard became fire chief/fire marshal at Mid-County in 2004, and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Class 4 ISO-rated fire/EMS district. Prior to that, he served as a captain and training officer at that district. Mid-County is one of St. Louis County's busiest fire protection units, servicing more than 3,500 calls in 2010.
"The Monarch community looks forward to Tom Vineyard's excellent leadership, strong partnerships and relationships he has already built throughout St. Louis County," Monarch Board President Kim Evans said in a news announcement. "He is highly respected by his peers."
Evans said Vineyard comes to Monarch with more than 23 years of experience in fire suppression, emergency management services (EMS) operations, training and management. His annual salary is a reported $127,500.
“These are qualities the board was seeking in its new chief,” Monarch Board Secretary Steve Swyers said in the announcement. “We look forward to Thomas Vineyard joining the ranks of our highly-qualified and professional staff of firefighter-paramedics. Mr. Vineyard has the experience, qualifications and expertise to lead this fire protection district as it begins a new era in delivering the highest quality fire protection and emergency medical services to all of our citizens.”
The third of Monarch's three-member board, Robin Harris, did not express the same confidence in Vineyard's abilities at a Saturday board meeting. In fact, Harris opposed hiring Vineyard in Saturday's 2-1 board vote, citing that Vineyard did not possess the qualifications for which Monarch was searching.
Yet in Monarch's announcement about Vineyard's background, it stated he is experienced in analyzing operating costs, preparing budget proposals, managing district expenses, negotiating contracts, administering pension plans, and developing and implementing policies and procedures necessary for district personnel safety as well as the protection of citizens' lives and property. He also served as incident commander to provide direction, effective scene management and efficient use of manpower and equipment, according to the announcement.
Regarding statements made by Harris that Vineyard did not have experience operating ambulances at Mid-County, Vineyard said Monday morning that Mid-County contracted for its ambulances and that he did run a pumper station.
"I am an EMT with more than 5,000 calls' experience, not a paramedic," said Vineyard, regarding other remarks from Harris about Vineyard's emergency preparedness background. "But a paramedic is not what I'm being hired for. I'm being hired to administer the district."
Vineyard’s certifications and training include:
- Fire Fighter I & II, Greater St. Louis County Fire Chiefs Association
- EMT – License B-45184, Missouri Department of Health
- Hazardous Materials Technician
- NFA – Hazardous Materials Management Incident Response
- Fire Service Instructor I
- Fire Service Instructor II
- Fire Officer I
- Fire Officer II
- Fire Inspector I
- Fire Investigator
- National Incident Management System 100, 200, 300, 400 & 700
- Incident Safety Officer
He is working toward a bachelor's degree in fire service management.
Monarch's announcement indicated Vineyard's career accomplishments as successfully managing a financially struggling district into a financially solvent district with $1.3 million in reserves; directing the construction of a new fire/administration facility; and initiating an aggressive community relations program that includes CPR training, smoke detector installations, child safety seat installations, Christmas Toy Drive and public education.
He was selected to participate in promotional processes for other St. Louis County fire agencies, according to Monarch information. He also was awarded the Greater St. Louis Area Fire Chiefs Association’s 2003 Fire Service Instructor of the Year.
Vineyard serves in various capacities with the following organizations:
- Secretary, Greater St. Louis Area Fire Chiefs Association
- Board Member, Greater St. Louis Area Fire Chiefs Association, Special Programs
- Chairman, Greater St. Louis Area Fire Chiefs Association Awards Committee
- Member, International Association of Fire Chiefs
- Member, Missouri Association of Fire Chiefs
- St. Louis County Hazardous Materials Response Team
- President, North County Training Association
Vineyard and his wife, Maureen, have a son and a daughter. He is an assistant Boy Scout Master, and coaches his daughter’s softball team, according to the Monarch announcement.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with the board of directors, men and women of the fire district and serving the great citizens of the Monarch Fire Protection District,” Vineyard said.
Vineyard told Patch that his goals for the Monarch district are to address the image misperceptions of the firefighters being overpaid and underworked. "Monarch firefighters have been drug through the mud in the last several years," he said. "They do make a decent living, but they train hard and work hard. And when that bell rings, they are prepared to do their jobs."
"I want to let more Monarch citizens know about what the Monarch men and women do on a daily basis, and how progressive the district is. Our No. 1 commitment is to the safety of the citizens," he said.
Regarding innuendos about Vineyard's relationship with the firefighters union, he said he was contacted by the search firm for this job and went through the same process as every other candidate. "I'm not in there with an agenda," he said. "I'm in there to do the best I can for the board, for the men and women of this district, and for the citizens of Monarch."