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New Galt fire chief to be 'transitional coordinator'

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Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2003 10:00 pm

You can't have two fire chiefs at the same time, so Tim Mrozinski, hired Thursday as Galt's next fire chief, will become "transitional coordinator."

That decision was made after an hour-long closed-session meeting Thursday night by the Galt Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

Mrozinski, who will retire this month from the Rocklin Fire Department, will replace Jim Templeton as Galt's fire chief. Templeton will retire Feb. 1.

The Galt board approved Mrozinski's employment by a 3-2 vote, with Board President Bill Dufur and Directors Guy Rutter and Rick Haas voting in favor of Mrozinski.

Directors Dale Templeton and Joseph Corey voted against hiring Mrozinski on the grounds that the chief's position was never advertised and that no one other than Mrozinski was considered.

Mrozinski was already chosen as the next chief by a straw vote at a special board meeting Oct. 23. His starting date in Galt has not been set, but he will be on duty well before Templeton leaves.

The Galt board approved Mrozinski's contract, but it is subject to Mrozinski's approval, Dufur said. Some undisclosed changes were made to the original contract proposal, which Mrozinski hasn't seen, Dufur said. Mrozinski did not attend the Galt meeting Thursday, due to a prior commitment in Rocklin.

Jim Templeton said after Thursday's meeting he will take occasional vacations between now and Feb. 1 rather than leave the district at an earlier date.

No members of the community attended Thursday's board meeting. Only firefighters and others affiliated with the district attended the meeting.

"It's sad to see Jim Templeton leave. He's been a friend," Dufur said during the public portion of Thursday's board meeting. We've had our battles. That's all right. We still love each other."

Dufur was responding to comments made by Templeton's brother, Dale Templeton, to the News-Sentinel that some board members have made the chief's life miserable this year.

Dufur denied Thursday that Jim Templeton was forced out, even though he told the News-Sentinel in July that the board had already told the chief his contract would not be renewed after it expired on June 30 of this year.

"Jim Templeton is not leaving this service under duress," Dufur said at Thursday's meeting. "He's leaving this service because he chose to."

Jim Templeton said he was not at liberty to comment on his employment status after the board meeting adjourned. He announced his retirement on Aug. 27 after 31 years with the fire district. He was assistant chief for 11 years before being named chief in June 1998.

Emotional firefighter funeral

In other action Thursday, Haas told his fellow directors and fire district employees about the emotional funeral he attended Wednesday for Novato firefighter Steven Rucker, who died Oct. 29 in the Cedar Fire incident in San Diego County.

Haas, a paramedic/engineer for the Elk Grove Fire Department in addition to sitting on the Galt fire board, said he met Rucker two years ago, when they took a wildland fire training class together. They were partners in a burn operations class.

"When you find it happens to somebody you know, it hits home," Haas said. "I had total connection with this."

What made it hit home all the more is how much Haas and Rucker had in common. They were both 38, married with two children and engineer/paramedics.

Three paramedic interns Haas supervised in Elk Grove ended up employed at Novato Fire. One of them, Barrett Smith, was on the same engine with Rucker when it was overcome by fire. Smith received minor injuries.

"It's really changed my perspective on the fire service," Haas said, his voice trembling with emotion. "It made me reflect that we may not make it home one day."

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