East Grand Fire Election News: A Q&A with Chief Todd Holzwarth and Office Manager Kristen Rybij

Sky-Hi News: How long have you been the fire chief of East Grand, and what was your experience in the fire department before?

I was appointed acting chief in May 1995 and fire chief the following year, so about 27 years. Prior to that, I was a volunteer deputy chief and served three former full-time fire chiefs. I joined the East Grand Fire Protection District (EGFPD) as a volunteer firefighter in July 1974 with no fire department experience, graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1980 and work in our family business since 1974. I have emergency service experience with the Civil Air Patrol (a US Air Force Civilian Auxiliary) as a communicator (radio operator) and member of the ground research.

What are your main roles as a fire chief?



Under the general direction of the Board of Directors, the Fire Chief is the Chief Executive Officer of the EGFPD. I am responsible for the management of the EGFPD and its personnel, including administration, training, operations and fire prevention.

What is the most rewarding part of being a mentor/leader for firefighters?



It’s very rewarding and enjoyable to see new firefighters come in and help them “get it” by providing examples and telling stories to help them understand what we do. We need smart people who can solve a problem and solve it, and I hope I will give them that opportunity. We ask so much of our volunteers and see them successfully tend to a faulty carbon monoxide detector at 3 a.m., fight fires during the East Troublesome explosion, and extricate patients from a head-on collision between two vehicles is incredibly satisfying. We do this by teaching skills, training with the equipment and, most importantly, developing the experience and judgment necessary to accomplish these feats.

What will your duties be during the electoral process?

Above all, stay away! Otherwise, I’ll make sure everything runs smoothly and minimize any hiccups.

Can you describe the election process for readers?

As a Title 32 Special District, our process is very similar to any other election, just a little simpler. We elect five directors to the board on a rotational basis of three, then two, every two years. They are elected for a four-year term. There is a simple petition process to get on the ballot. We’ve canceled our elections in recent cycles, so it’s exciting to have an election. We had to dig up the urns from storage! On Tuesday, May 3, our head office polling station will open at 7 a.m. and voting will be available until 7 p.m.

District Office Manager Kristen Rybij explains how elections work and why they are important.

Sky-Hi: What is your main role in East Grand Fire?

As District Financial Manager, I have many responsibilities, such as creating/maintaining our annual budget, balancing all of our bank and investment accounts, managing our Fire Impact Fee operations, response to our annual audit, execution of payroll and management of all accounts payable and receivable. I am the district human resources manager for staff, volunteers and retirees. I am a records custodian, administrative assistant in our fire prevention office, website technician, public information officer, social media manager, election manager, board meeting planner and front desk receptionist. Other times, I can be found playing district editor, paralegal, computer assistant, meal planner, and peer support member.

What will your duties be during the electoral process?

I will manage all facets of this election from start to finish. My duties vary widely, and while discussing election law has become my new favorite pastime, I won’t bore you all with the minutia of my election duties. What is important for everyone to know is that I promise to run this election to the best of my abilities, with the utmost integrity. I bring some experience from running our (successful) TABOR 2019 / income stabilization measure, but there is still a lot to learn to ensure a successful and legal execution of this election. This is our first election at a polling station in 16 years! If you would like to know any details regarding my duties, please feel free to call me at 970-726-5824, Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm.

Can you describe the election process for readers?

We are a special district holding a board of directors polling station election. Much of the voting will take place in person at the East Grand Fire headquarters. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3. Upon arrival, the voter will sign a self-affirmation form, their eligibility will be checked, and they will be given a ballot. The voter will go to a private voting booth to vote. The voted ballot will then be inserted into a secure ballot box. Once the polls close, election judges will remove all cast and mail-in ballots from the ballot box to tally the votes. Once completed, the unofficial results will be posted that evening at the polling station for public viewing. During the week of May 12-17, the designated canvassing committee will formally review and certify the results. New directors will be sworn in at the next EGFPD Board meeting. Eligible voters who cannot show up in person to vote can request an absentee ballot until the close of business on Tuesday, April 26. Applications can be picked up at East Grand Fire headquarters or downloaded from our website at EastGrandFire.com.

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a six-part series on the East Grand Fire Protection District Board of Directors Election.

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