Rob Jones named new CRFR chief
After serving the past five months in an interim capacity, former operations chief Rob Jones was officially named the new fire chief of Colorado River Fire Rescue Tuesday night.
Jones, a veteran area firefighter of 17 years, was sworn in after the board unanimously agreed on his appointment to the top leadership position in a fire district that includes Rifle, Silt and New Castle.
As Rex Rhule, CRFR board president, noted Tuesday evening, Jones prevailed through an exhaustive search process following the departure of Mike Morgan, the former chief who was named director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control in mid-March.
Jones took over in an interim capacity the following month when Morgan left to take the position with the state agency.
“You prevailed and prevailed very well,” Rhule said.
The fact did not escape Jones, who first started on a volunteer basis with the Rifle department in 1999, well before the merger that led to the creation of CRFR.
“It started in April and finished last night,” Jones said in an interview Wednesday morning. “The different stages of the interview (process) were challenging, and exciting at the same time to put all your experiences and education to use to get through that process.”
Weathering the process, while continuing the day-to-day work as interim chief, would not have been possible without the support from family, Jones said of his wife and two daughters, adding that he also has a grandson.
There are challenges on the horizon for the district, which includes four firehouses and 130 personnel when including full time, part time and volunteers.
Like other local jurisdictions that rely on mill levies, CRFR will face a steep decline in revenues due to the slowdown in oil and gas activity. The point was reiterated throughout the board’s discussion of various items following Jones’ swearing in.
At the same time, the district’s call volume is on the rise, which poses an additional challenge, Jones said.
However, the CRFR does have many positive things going for it, particularly its partnerships in the communities it protects, Jones said.
“I think the partnerships and community outreach programs have helped us out a bunch,” he said. “We work really closely with all the law enforcement entities in our communities and neighboring communities.”
Under a conditional employment offer agreed to by the CRFR board at its Aug. 30 meeting, Jones will receive a salary of $107,000. After a brief executive session Tuesday, the board and Jones emerged to officially name him the new chief.
After Morgan departed, the district advertised the position but only received two applicants, Rhule said while providing an overview of the search process Tuesday night.
“We decided this probably wasn’t a good number to choose from.”
After re-advertising the position for a more national audience, the district ended up with 18 candidates. That field was then narrowed to five finalists and one of the candidates removed himself from the search, leaving four.
According to minutes from the Aug. 9 board of directors meeting, a conditional offer was made to Ralph Lucas with the Prescott Fire Department in Prescott, Arizona. At the meeting, several board members commented that the organization was moving forward and they requested support of the new leadership.
According to Aug. 20 meeting minutes, Lucas made a counteroffer to the original offer of $107,000 in salary and asked for a salary of $116,000 and no moving expenses. The board countered Lucas’ counter with a salary of $110,000 and $3,000 in moving expenses.
Rhule informed the board at its Aug. 30 meeting that Lucas had declined the offer, according to meeting minutes.
Despite the ups and down of the search process, Rhule on Tuesday said he believed the board ultimately selected the right candidate.
“In the end I think the best candidate prevailed,” he said.
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Grand River Health likely won’t open parts of the new long-term Care Center in Rifle, including the highly specialized memory care unit, until sometime next year.