Kuna Rural Fire District’s fire chief, Perry Palmer, will retire next month, and Phil Roberts, Nampa Fire Department’s former chief, will take the helm.
Palmer will retire at the end of September. In the meantime, he will be the district’s acting assistant fire chief while Roberts transitions into the leadership role.
Palmer has been Kuna’s fire chief since May 2017. Prior to moving to Kuna, he was deputy chief of prevention for the Meridian Fire Department for six years and chief of the Lebanon Fire District in Oregon for nine years.
Kuna Rural Fire District commissioners appointed Roberts during a special meeting on Aug. 2. Roberts, who joined the Kuna Rural Fire District as assistant fire chief in June, was the only candidate considered for the position, according to Kuna Rural Fire District secretary Krystal Hinkle.
The Kuna fire chief’s salary is about $104,000 annually, not including benefits, according to Hinkle. Roberts’ salary will be the same as Palmer’s.
Roberts, 57, was close to retiring for good when he received the job offer in Kuna. After 30 years in Salt Lake City, Roberts joined the Nampa Fire Department in 2015. Two years later, he was promoted from fire marshal to fire chief. He retired from the Nampa Fire Department in April.
Roberts said the Kuna Rural Fire District may require reorganization, following a failed fire levy increase. The challenge of providing service to the growing city while the district’s resources remain stagnant could benefit from a fresh set of eyes, Roberts said.
That’s why he applied for the job.
“It seemed like a good challenge,” Roberts said. “It’s really necessary to plan for the future.”
According to its proposed 2020 budget, the Kuna Rural Fire District will work with just over $3 million. About two-thirds comes from Ada and Canyon County tax levies.
The district asked the voters earlier this year for a permanent annual levy increase of $1.1 million, to add personnel and replace and repair equipment. About 63% of residents voted in favor of the levy, but it needed 67% to pass.
The district will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kuna Rural Fire Station No. 1, 150 W. Boise St.
As Roberts assumes leadership of the district, he hopes to better understand what Kuna residents expect from their fire department. He plans to host public meetings and speak with local business and community leaders about their expectations.
“What do you want to see, with the funds that we do have right now?” he said. “We want to be able to provide the service that the community expects. We’re excited about (the growth that’s) happening, but we want to make sure that we have the right plan in place to be successful.”
Roberts said one of his initial concerns is the district’s inability to respond to two calls at a time. “We’re very good at the first call, but ... we only have the personnel to respond to that first call,” he said. “We need to cover that second call.”
Additionally, Roberts hopes to minimize the amount of mutual aid provided to Kuna by other fire jurisdictions. “At some point in the future, we have to minimize the amount of times we draw them out this way,” he said.
Ultimately, Roberts wants to make the district more “effective and efficient,” in terms of equipment, personnel and other resources.
“That takes a team to do it — it’s not a person,” he said.