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Eureka Fire Board Candidates Offer Different Takes on Needs

Prepare for the April 2 election by reading Patch's rundowns on each of the candidates.

One spot on the three-member Eureka Fire Protection District (EFPD) board of directors will be decided during the April 2 election. Incumbent Butch Oberkramer has served on the board since 1983; he currently chairs it. Eureka resident Wally Wuelling is the other candidate.

Editor's Note: The candidates received an identical questionnaire via email and were each given the same amount of time to reply.

BUTCH OBERKRAMER 

Occupation:  Project Manager at Kelpe Contracting

Education:  Graduate of the Eureka High School, Veteran U.S. Army

Age, Family (spouse):  64 years old, wife Marilyn

Years lived in Eureka:  Entire life.

Please provide a summary of your background, highlighting community involvement:

  • Five-term director with EFPD
  • Former fireman and fire captain
  • EFPD built three new stations and one new training center during my terms, all without property tax rate increases.
  • Member, Missouri Fire Fighters Association
  • Board of Governors, Missouri Association of Fire Protection Districts
  • Citizen of the Year, Eureka Valley Business Club
  • Member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church
  • Member Operating Engineers Local 513, American Legion Post 177.

Reasons for running for Eureka Fire Protection District Board:

EFPD was voted the No. 1 District (out of 442) in the State of Missouri in 2012 (and in 1999) by the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri. I want to continue to provide leadership and guidance so we can continue this high level of service.

I also want to protect the taxpayers of our district from unnecessary district costs leading to property tax rate increases. We provide pay and benefits for approximately 40 employees, as well as related pensions and benefits, and I want to make sure that taxpayers' interests are protected by the EFPD board.

What do you currently see as the biggest issue facing EFPD?

The biggest issue facing the district is that we are growing in population, and EFPD needs to be constantly focused on providing services to a larger population, while at the same time being responsible with the money the taxpayers of our district provide to us.

In what areas does EFPD need to improve? Are you satisfied with the way the district has been operating?

EFPD is an excellent fire district, and that’s not just my personal opinion. EFPD was voted the No. 1 district in Missouri in 2012 by the largest rating association in Missouri. EFPD provided an average 4.5-minute emergency response time in 2012. That being said, technology and training in our field is constantly in need of improvement and updating. I am very satisfied with the way the board and our fire leadership are operating the EFPD and adapting to these changes.

Assume you win the election. What single mission do you want to accomplish during your term?

I want to keep the EFPD the No. 1 district in the state, and continue to provide an excellent 4.5-minute emergency response time to our residents. I know that this is a high goal, but it's obviously achievable, and that is the goal I and the board will continue to set. I will also oppose property tax rate increase proposals. New taxes are unnecessary if we manage our resources properly.

What else would you like voters to know about your observations, goals?

I have lived in Eureka all my life, and I have spent a large part of my life working for, or as a board member of, the EFPD. I have been on the front lines of emergency service, and understand personally how important our fire district is to our citizens.

I care deeply about the EFPD, and all of our residents, and will always try my best to do the right thing for both.

I think my track record at the district is strong, and so do the people that have endorsed me, including Tim Jones (Missouri House Speaker, Eureka resident), Kevin Coffey (Eureka’s Mayor), Michael Wiegand (Police Chief) Aldermen (Robert Berry, Marilyn Leistner, and Wes Sir) and several fire service organizations.

Click here to view Oberkramer's campaign Facebook page.

WALLY WUELLING

Occupation:  Union elevator constructor mechanic employed at Midwest Elevator Company.

Education:  Attended John F. Kennedy High School and South County Technical High School where he studied industrial electronics and graduated third in his high school class.

Age, Family (spouse/children):  47 years old, wife Maureen, four children:  Emma, 17  Matthew, 15 Jacob, 13 Annie, 11. I have lived in Eureka for 10 years .

Summary of background highlighting community involvement:

  • Member of Elevator Constructors Union Local #3 for 29 years
  • Elected union officer within Local #3 for 25 years
  • Selected as Elevator Constructors Local #3 Union Man of the Year for 2005
  • Executive Board Member of the Rockwood Labor Club
  • Assisted with community outreach helping families in need acquire furniture for their homes
  • Assisted with the Adopt-a-Family Program at Christmas to provide gifts for families in need
  • Volunteer for the elementary, middle, and high school PTO
  • Volunteer for the Eureka High School Show Choir group OnStage!
  • Cub Scout den leader
  • Cub Scout Cub Master of Pack 322 in Eureka
  • Volunteer for the Eureka High School Football Boosters Club
  • Football Coach for the Eureka Jr. Wildcat Football Team
  • Announcer for the 5th, 7th, 9th grade Eureka Football Teams
  • Part-time announcer for the Eureka High School Varsity Wrestling matches
  • Eureka Sports Association Baseball Manager/ coach
  • Eureka Sports Association Softball coach
  • St. Louis County Sports Association representative for the Eureka Sports Association

Reasons for running for the Eureka Fire Protection District:

I always have been one to get involved in my community. I became aware of the fact that the fire department was understaffed, and it greatly affected the emergency response and the response times within our community. I want to increase staffing to improve the safety of the citizens and the paramedics/firefighters of Eureka. I was also made aware the administration has ignored the input and ideas on how to provide better emergency service to the community from experienced paramedics/firefighters in Eureka.  

What do you currently see as the biggest issue facing EFPD?

The biggest issue facing the EFPD is their staffing levels. Emergency calls that have been made within the last two weeks have overwhelmingly shown the shortcomings of the district. When responding to a head-on collision on Route 66 headed into Pacific, the paramedics/firefighters, in an effort to save lives, abandoned the fire truck on the roadside to be able to properly man the ambulances on the scene. The fire truck was eventually returned to the Eureka Firehouse by a Pacific fire captain.

Also this past week, when responding to a second ambulance call, a dumpster fire was reported behind Poor Richard's Restaurant. Shortly after the dumpster alarm, the second ambulance finished their call and returned to the nearest firehouse to park the ambulance and take a fire truck to the scene of the fire. The Pacific Fire Department had been dispatched to the fire because of Eureka’s inability to respond because of the two previous ambulance calls. The Eureka firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. When a neighboring fire district is dispatched to help, it is called mutual aid. I believe that mutual aid should not be our primary operational plan in responding to emergencies in our community. Mutual aid is an important part of the overall plan, but should not be the primary answer because of our understaffing. These calls are common occurrences and not exceptions to the rule.

With Hidden Valley, Six Flags, and three elderly residential facilities in our community, our ambulances are constantly busy. In 2012, the EFPD responded to approximately 2,100 calls. This is an average of nearly six calls per day. These figures alone show our paramedics and firefighters are always busy.

In what areas does EFPD need to improve? Are you satisfied with the way the district has been operating?

The EFPD needs to improve in the area of staffing. The current staffing levels are under nationally recognized minimum standards, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Communication between the administration and the paramedics/firefighters needs to improve. The paramedics/firefighters currently feel their jobs are threatened if they make suggestions on how to improve the emergency response of the district.

I feel that transparency on all levels will allow the citizens to be made aware of these important issues that are never advertised by the district. After checking the facts, I am not satisfied with the way the district has been operating.

Assume you win the election. What single mission do you want to accomplish during your term?

If I am elected, I will increase staffing in a fiscally responsible way. This will ensure the safety of the community and the paramedic/firefighters that respond to the emergencies.   

What else would you like voters to know about your observations, goals?

A lot of effort has been made recently to call attention to the 2012 award given to the EFPD. I believe this award directly reflects on the professionalism and dedication of the men and women that serve this community as paramedics and firefighters. My thanks go out to them for their efforts. The association that presented this award to the EFPD is largely made up of volunteer fire districts. While I feel this honor is great for Eureka, I wonder how our district would compare on an apples-to-apples comparison with other fully taxpayer funded districts and not a large majority of mostly rural, volunteer districts.

A lot of effort also has been made that our taxes have not been raised in many years. Due to the increase in residential housing over the past 15 years, over 1,100 houses have been built in The Legends and Mirasol subdivisions. This has been a financial windfall for the district from just these two subdivisions. There has not been a need to raise taxes when more than 1,100 new homes were dropped in the district’s backyard.

Click here to view Wuelling's campaign webpage.

Chris Moore March 30, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Thank you Julie.
Sandy Henderson March 30, 2013 at 02:27 PM
The real question here is...Why the incumbent isn't supported by the firefighters and paramedics that he represents? I think we need to know that instead of this childish rhetoric. I don't know Mr. oberkramer BUT I do know Wally Wuelling and he is one of the most honest, giving people I have ever had the privilege to call a friend. He has been wrongfully accused of things durng this campaign and had his integrity questioned and has handled everything with dignity and class. Maybe some of you commenting on this post should try to handle yourself in the same manner.
Cole Taylor March 30, 2013 at 08:25 PM
I have known Wally for several years. He is one of the most honest, trustworthy people that I have met since I moved to Eureka. I truly believe that he had the best interest of the citizens of Eureka in mind when he decided to run for the Eureka Fire Board. Our community has continued to grow with new homes being completed in several areas every month. I do believe that we should be concerned with how the district will be able to appropriatley service us all in the future with the same structure and resources. Wally is a forward-thinking, dedicated citizen who has a vision for the future of the district. He has my vote!
Bryan Vancil April 01, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Mr. Oberkramer can you explain why in the latest issue of West Magazine you now state your top priority is to increase staffing? Also you state that you will do it without a tax increase. How is this possible when you have clearly stated that Wally would not be able to increase staffing without a tax increase? If this is indeed possible, why haven’t you done this during your long term as director? Do you really expect voters to believe any of your contradicting messages?
Concerned Citizen April 03, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Well, now that the election is over and a few of you who have posted on this site have offended the "good ole boys" ie...the mayor, the police chief, councilmembers, the Missouri Speaker of the House, Board members of the EFPD and various other important members of this elite club, what do you do next. My thoughts would be turn your energy and concern to protecting the dumpsters in your area. Apparently as ridiclous as that sounds, you had more concern for them then you did your reputation. Good Luck....

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