With the controversy that has shaded Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) over the past few years with finances, staff turnover, the loss of the contract with the City of Oakdale and, most recently, the lawsuit that was filed against the city of Riverbank, there may be some light peering through those clouds. That light could come in the form of two new board members, sworn in during the summer and settling in to their seats on the panel. Jonathan Goulding and Steven Stanfield are now serving on the board, and were sworn in recently along with seeing the reappointment of Greg Bernardi.
The former fire board President Susan Zanker and Vice President Dave Woods are no longer on the SCFPD Board of Directors. Current Board of Directors, Michelle Guzman and Steve Green’s terms run through the end of this year.
Goulding is a current Fire Captain for Ceres Fire. He is very familiar with the staff and the history of SCFPD. He talked about serving on the fire board for years and finally got the opportunity. As an active firefighter Goulding said he found it important to bring his perspective and experience to the table.
“Obviously there was a lot of stuff going on with Consolidated and there has been for years,” stated Goulding. “It is not the last board’s fault; this has been going on for years. One of my concerns is it didn’t appear to me that there were public safety people on the board. So public safety is a little bit unique on the way we operate these things.”
Goulding noted that, with his service in Ceres, he spent a lot of time “educating the city council members” there on the way fire departments operate.
He also has experienced turmoil within the Ceres Fire Department where a fire marshal became the fire chief, at one point the city manager was the fire chief, and finally Kevin Wise, formerly with SCFPD, is now the acting fire chief.
“It is the first time since I have been there that we had a fire guy be our fire chief,” added Goulding. “So I know what it is like for these guys coming to work feeling like either the board doesn’t have their back or the chief doesn’t have their back or some combination of those things.”
In the late 1990s, Goulding began his career in Sonoma County and in 2006 got hired on full time for Ceres where he has been ever since. He has assisted in creating a new public relations program and spends part of his time as the Public Information Officer.
When it comes to the lawsuit regarding fire protection costs, Goulding explained that SCFPD did not just raise rates by picking some random numbers. He shared that Consolidated hired an independent third party that did the assessment and that it had been a very long time since rates had been increased.
“I personally would rather avoid a lawsuit but at the same time Consolidated is not super flush with money so if Riverbank needs protection we need to be able to protect them,” expressed Goulding. “So whatever that cost is, and I didn’t assess it; I have seen the report but the report was done by people that make those kinds of assessments and if they say this is the cost of doing business, I don’t know better than that.”
One of his main goals is to “stabilize” the department in regards to finances and personnel.
“I have been in the firefighter’s shoes I understand how hard it is when you are fighting to make a board or a council understands your basic needs,” Goulding said. “I am excited about being on the board.”
Stanfield was born and raised in Modesto and currently resides in the Crossroads area. He grew up in the rural area with a grandfather that was a fire chief and his father who was a volunteer firefighter. Growing up in the fire department and his grandfather being one of his mentors, Stanfield originally had a vision of becoming a firefighter. They also grew almonds.
Around his senior year of high school, though, Stanfield said he got the bug to look into law enforcement.
“I was going to Modesto High School and I used to hang out front of the old jail in downtown Modesto with another board member on the board right now,” explained Stanfield.
He started his law enforcement career working part time for the Modesto Police Department making $5 an hour. After a couple years he got picked up for full time and has been in law enforcement ever since. Stanfield served two years with the Alameda Sheriff’s Department and then spent the rest of his career in Modesto for a total of 22 years.
“I have always wanted to have that connection with fire,” said Stanfield. “I have always been involved with the community. I have been an area commander for the Modesto Police Department. You are like the police’s liaison for anything that goes on in that community.”
Following the situation with the Oakdale contract and attending a few board meetings, Stanfield said he wanted to be part of the solution and help the SCFPD grow. He also realizes that there are things he needs to learn and people that he would like to get to know including the other board members, city officials, and fire staff. Although he has known board member Bernardi for many years he expressed that their foundation is one of friendship and not as board members.
As far as the lawsuit with the City of Riverbank, Stanfield shared that he needs to obtain more details, do more research, and have a few more conversations before he comments publicly about the issue. However, he is very hopeful and positive that with the new board there may different opinions and different concerns than the previous board.
“My goal is to try to find a way to effectively communicate with the City of Riverbank, the builder, Consolidated as a whole to have a sit down and have a resolution that we all think works,” Stanfield said. “This whole Crossroads development is designed for one purpose, to make Riverbank better.”
Understanding that new housing will add more people to the community which means there must be services to support those people, he would hope that they can all get on the same page to make Riverbank a safe community.
The three goals that Stanfield has while being on the board are to deal with the staffing issues at Consolidated, to make the budget fiscally sound, and develop a leadership plan.
“I am extremely proud to serve Riverbank,” expressed Stanfield. “I am committed to try to do everything I can as board member to make sure Riverbank has the best fire service they can have and the citizens are as safe as humanly possible.”
Both new board members have a two-year term that can be extended another two years for a total of four years.