Byron Willems, who has been Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board president for eight years, handed in his letter of resignation Tuesday.
The fire board officially asked for Willems’ resignation May 15 at their monthly meeting. (Willems was not able to attend that meeting because he was traveling.) The request followed a tense election and a heated dispute between Willems and certain businesses in the community.
The fire board election brought in a particularly contentious campaign. Candidate Bruce Timberg ran against three incumbents — John Forgay, Chris Nichols and Tony Maneotis — and said the sitting board was deceptive and needed more transparency. Four times as many voters as the 2012 election turned out on May 6 to cast their ballot, and the incumbents won back their seats.
Immediately following the voting results, Willems on his Facebook page called for a boycott of businesses that had posted Timberg’s campaign signs in their windows. This caused an uproar in the community, and when Willems refused to back down from his statements or apologize, the board asked for his resignation.
Board members agreed he had acted in a way that could be construed to be representing the fire board and that representation reflected negatively on the fire board and the fire department.
“At the time, I think the board was concerned of the image that was being portrayed of the fire district and the fire department,” Nichols said. “We thought that (Willems) was posting comments, making postings and directing comments that were construed as board statements. And that was certainly not the case.”
Willems said he turned in his resignation, but that he wanted to withhold comments until he spoke with certain community members.
Forgay, who will take over as president of the board, said that once the board officially accepts the letter of resignation, the next step for will be finding a replacement for Willems’ open seat.
“Shortly we will be proceeding toward the process of (finding) a replacement for the board,” he said. “We’ll probably have to start that before the next meeting.”
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.