Three commissioners in the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District Commission are facing challengers.
Scott Ricci is challenging incumbent Mike Mulyck for Seat 2, Mike Carlton is running against incumbent Larry Tyler for Seat 3, and Mondher Kobrosly is challenging incumbent John Rigney for Seat 4. All terms are four years.
Mulyck, 65, worked in the telecommunications industry in Minnesota for 35 years, 15 of those as a safety and risk manager. He was a volunteer firefighter for 18 years, a certified arson investigator and a city councilman for three years.
Upon retirement in 1998, he and his wife, Ruthann, moved to Anna Maria. He was appointed to fill vacancies on the fire commission, then was elected to the board in 2002 and has served the past eight years. He has served as the chair and represents the board on the safety committee.
Ricci, 66, constructed and operated cable television systems in New Hampshire. He served as a volunteer firefighter for 10 years, as chairman of the fire commission and on the planning board for Chesterfield, N.H., for three years.
He and his wife, Anne moved to Holmes Beach in 1994. He and his father built the Woodlands Golf Course in Ellenton in1994 and sold it in 2005. He is a member of the Bradenton Beach Moose Lodge.
Tyler, 74, was manager of human resources for a large shoe company in Wisconsin for 15 years, then director of human resources for a city the size of Bradenton for 10 years. There he participated in labor negotiations for protective services such as police and fire.
He and his wife, Geri, moved to Cortez and opened Tyler’s Ice Cream in 1984 and sold it in 1996. He was appointed to the board in 1988 and has served since. He has been secretary/treasurer and chairman and represented the board on the Manatee County Fire Commissioners’ Association, where he served as secretary and president.
Carleton, 48, has a business background in commercial communications in Ohio. He is part owner of Central Ohio Communications Group, which has broadcast and cell towers.
He and his wife, Anna Maria, moved to Anna Maria nine years ago, and he began working in real estate with Smith Realtors. He started his own real estate and property management company, Coastline Accommodations, based in Homes Beach and recently moved to Coral Shores.
Rigney, 52, of Holmes Beach began his career in firefighting with the city of Bradenton in 1980. He joined the Longboat Key Fire Department in 1984 as a firefighter/EMT and served as a lieutenant for 22 years. He retired from the department in 2008.
He currently is an inspector with the North River Fire District. He has served on the fire commission since 2002.
He and his wife, Cheri, have been Island residents for 28 years. Son Ben is a West Manatee firefighter and son John is a Sarasota County paramedic.
Kobrosly, 51, grew up in Carthage, Tunisia, and came to the U.S. to attend Coe College in Iowa where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He has worked in the import/export business in the U.S. and overseas.
He and his wife, Donna, moved to Holmes Beach in 1996. He was general manager at Planet Fun in Bradenton before buying Timesaver Food and Wine store in 1999. He bought Jessie’s Island Store in 2005 and D Coy Ducks in 2007. He and Donna currently live in Bradenton.
Candidates respond to questions
Q: Is it necessary to have volunteer or firefighter experience to serve on the commission?
Mulyck: No, but you need to have a sense of how government works.
Ricci: No. It might be a disadvantage because they have a narrower point of view than the general public.
Tyler: No. I believe anyone with a good business background can serve because the chief administers the operations of the district with the approval of the board.
Carleton: No. That’s why they have a chief who is the liaison between the employees and the board.
Rigney: It’s helpful because you understand the language, the issues and the statutes, but it’s not required. People bring different opinions and experiences into it.
Kobrosly: No. Like any other business, it’s all about responsibility and accountability. It’s branch of government, and you need to know how to use the money wisely.
Q: Is it important for a fire commissioner to have business experience?
Mulyck: Yes. It’s helpful to know how to manage resources and get the most value for your dollar.
Ricci: Yes. Like it or not, it’s a $5.5 million a year business and needs to be run as one.
Tyler: Yes. It helps you understand the operations because the commission functions like a board of directors.
Carleton: Yes. It’s making financial decisions – can we afford to continue what we’re doing and how we’re doing it?
Rigney: It’s helpful but not required. You should have some business experience for doing the budgets.
Kobrosly: It’s a necessity.
Q: What cuts have you made in the budget or what cuts should be made?
Mulyck: We’ve cut in several different categories and we haven’t given raises for two years.
Ricci: I don’t feel qualified as an outsider to judge at this point what cuts should be made.
Tyler: We cut from several departments and functions within the departments and did not give salary increases.
Carleton: I would like to look at the budget. I’ve never seen anything that couldn’t be cut.
Rigney: We asked the chief to cut the general budget, we did not give raises, we cut training and we paid off the ladder truck.
Kobrosly: I’m not saying they’re doing a bad job because I don’t know.The main reason I want to get involved is to use my business experience to help reduce taxes and the budget. Any branch of the government needs to be reasonable and accountable.
Q: Why did you vote to buy the building or how would you have voted?
Mulyck: I voted in favor because we need to consolidate our administrative staff and get them out of the existing fire stations so we can provide space for firefighters and their equipment. We accelerated our debt reduction so we could buy it. It’s part of our strategic long-range plan.
Ricci: I wouldn’t have voted for it. I would have looked very hard at other alternatives, including renting commercial space. Based on the input I have gotten, I think it’s too big for their needs.
Tyler: I voted for it because we have discussed consolidating our administrative facilities for 10 years. The fragmentation and duplication of equipment we have now is not an efficient way to do business. If we ever consolidate, we could sell the building.
Carleton: I wouldn’t have voted for it. I don’t know that they needed it. With the economy the way it is, why would you want to have that capital expenditure? We need to cut expenses and that’s one of many that can be cut.
Rigney: We need to have our main files off the Island because of storms and consolidate our administration. We had to open up space in the fire stations for firefighters. It will allow us to expand their living quarters.
Kobrosly: I’m not sure. I would not point fingers until I got involved and looked at the numbers to know if it’s a good investment.
Q: What are your views on county-wide consolidation of fire districts?
Mulyck: It’s long overdue, and in the past, we have tried working with county officials, the fire districts, the county commission, the fire chiefs’ association and the local legislators. There are multiple fire districts with duplication of resources where we could have one.
Ricci: I think it should be looked at very seriously. There are big savings that could be made on equipment, manpower and functioning as one unit. The service would have to improve.
Tyler: I’m in favor of consolidating both fire and EMS because employees could be cross trained and we could have ALS (advanced life support) fire engines. I was part of the merger of West Side and Anna Maria in 2000 and I’ve been an advocate ever since.
Carleton: I read the Bradenton Herald every day, and I never heard of anybody trying to consolidate the fire districts. We need to go to the media and get attention, and the voters will elect people that will make it happen. If Sarasota can do it, why can’t we do it?
Rigney: People have talked about it since 1980, but no one’s gotten serious about it. We wouldn’t have to duplicate services and with a big department, you can move people around easier.
Kobrosly: I don’t know who’s doing what. If we’re managing our money the right way, I don’t know why we would want to go with someone who’s not.