As fire board challengers declare victory, incumbents defy defeat

Chairwoman said questioning positions “premature”
By: Amber Marra,
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Candidates challenging the three incumbents of the Newcastle Fire Protection District Board of Directors were preparing for their new roles on Wednesday, but current members aren’t so sure it’s time to give up their seats.

As of Wednesday, the Placer County Office of Elections website showed all 10 of the precincts in Newcastle reporting results for the fire board.

Of the 4,416 votes cast, Dave Ward, a newcomer, carried 1,087, or 24 percent of the vote. He is followed by fellow challengers Jonita “Joni” Elder with 832 votes, or 18.8 percent, and Jimmie Jordan with 829 votes, or 18.7 percent.

Current Vice Chairman Bob Stearns fell in behind Jordan on Wednesday with 569 votes, or 12.8 percent and Chairwoman Yvonne Lewis had 542 votes, or 12.2 percent. Current board member David Poore fell in last with 537 votes, or 12.1 percent.

Under those results, Ward, Elder and Jordan ousted the three incumbents, but Lewis had not accepted defeat as of Wednesday, saying it is too soon to tell who won the three seats up for grabs.

“My understanding is that this is not a certified election, so this is premature,” Lewis said. “I understand that it is high and if that’s the case then the residents have chosen what they want and the board will have a real challenge to provide a safe working environment for our firefighters.”

Ryan Ronco, Placer County assistant registrar of voters, said Wednesday there were around 14,000 mail-in ballots in Placer County that have been signature verified that were either picked up from the post office on Election Day or dropped off at polling places. It is estimated that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 additional ballots that need to be signature verified and examined for eligibility.

“We have a high amount of provisional ballots and mail-in ballots collected on Election Day,” Ronco said. “Over the next few weeks we’ll count those ballots and update the numbers.”

It could not be determined which races in Placer County those ballots apply, but Ronco said they would be sorted by supervisorial district in the coming days.

By law, the office of elections has 28 days after the election to certify results, but Ronco said he hopes all results are in before Thanksgiving.

Members of the fire board are set to be sworn in at the regular meeting on Dec. 13. Officers are set to be elected during that meeting, as well.

Ward, who currently holds the most commanding lead in the race to become a board member, was confident on Wednesday that he will soon be serving as a board member.

He said he had already met with some firefighters, Placer County Chief Building Official Tim Wegner and County Supervisor Jim Holmes.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay right the way it is,” Ward said. “I’m moving right along so when I get on the board I can hit the ground running and get things squared away. We can’t wait; that’s what got us where we are now.”

In a meeting leading up to the election, Ward publically called out the three incumbents for what he feels has been financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency from the board. He said if he were to end up serving alongside one of the incumbents he would find a way to work through issues.

“I would just show them the black and white information I’ve gathered as to the proper course to take because the course they are currently taking won’t make things happen,” Ward said.

 Poore and Elder did not return messages on Wednesday.

Stearns, who has been out of town, said he had only seen some of the results and that he wants to stay involved with the board even if he isn’t reelected. He added that he hopes the salary and benefits packages recently passed for firefighters will stay in place when new board members are sworn in.

Measure K, which would have reformed Measure B, did not get the two-thirds vote to pass on Tuesday. Measure B imposes a $146.46 annual parcel tax on property owners that can increase up to 3 percent depending on the structures on said property. Measure K would reduce Measure B to $30 after three years.

“If Measure K passed it would not have been good for our district in the future because the numbers don’t add up. We can’t maintain our firefighters on $30 per year per parcel,” Stearns said. “Those guys deserve a lot more than what we’re able to give them.”

Jordan was also confident that the polling numbers that came in Tuesday night would hold.

“We all have the same job to do, we might just have different perspectives on how to get it accomplished and that’s the way life is sometimes. We get through it,” Jordan said.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.