03/12/2010: "What A Difference 20 Years Makes!"
(Chief Long & Bill LaPorte With "new" car)
By Rick Galer
Three years ago when Chief Long was hired as Town Fire Chief, he needed a command vehicle; and as usual there was no money for such a thing. He got creative, checked with Sheriff Bill and bought a retired Sheriff’s cruiser for $1.00.
Being a car buff from way back, he took it home and started work. Stripped off all the old Sheriff stuff, ordered replacement parts, like back seat door handles, red lights etc. As he recalls, less than $1500.00 was spent, along with lots of hours of work.
Then in January 2010 he was driving on Guard Street; approaching the stop sign and the transmission started to ‘whine’, after the stop sign it popped out of gear, but the shift lever was still in place. He pulled over to the side of the road and started over, wondering what had happened….
He continued on his way ‘slowly’!
Back in December of 2009 Assistant Chief Tom Eades had approached Chief Long about a used Chief’s car from Clallam County. They talked about it, took the idea to the Town Administrator who politely said….No; not right away, but still, no! There is no money!
A couple of days later Tom Eades received a phone call from Bill LaPorte, Chairman of the Firefighter’s Association, who was working the problem from another direction. (Tom was sworn to secrecy: the board had voted to finance the Chief’s car).
It seems that retired Mayor LaPorte was in the Town Administrators office talking with Mr. Fitch when the problem of the Chief’s car came up. Mr. Fitch asked Mr. LaPorte if he could do anything about the problem. Two days later Mr. LaPorte was in Fire Chief Oakes office in Port Angeles, check in hand, signing paper-work for the “Old” Clallam County car when the phone rang; it was Chief Long asking if the car was still available, without hesitation, but with a big smile, Chief Oakes responded; “No, I am sorry, the car has been sold” and hung up. (LaPorte is still laughing about that!)
The ‘new chief’s car’ was stored at Dave Moorhouse’s garage for a week while tax and license were worked out. The car was presented to the Fire Chief at the regular Monday night meeting, being run by Assistant Chief Tom Eades, in front of all the Firefighters, with the help of Town Mayor, Carry Lacher, Town Administrator, King Fitch and retired Mayor Bill LaPorte.
Chief Long was totally surprised. Total cost to the Thrift House/Firefighters Association $2000.00 plus tax and license. Total cost to Town of Friday Harbor was
only the transfer of equipment.
20 years ago the Town Fire Chief drove his own car at his own expense.