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November 6, 2018 — California General Election
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Special District

Mosquito Fire Protection DistrictCandidate for Director

Photo of Charles Schnell
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Charles Schnell

Retired Management Consultant
399 votes (32.2%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Strategic planning: we need to define what MFPD needs will be over the next few years–not just personnel and operating expense but asset renewal too--and map a path to meet them.
  • Exploring and developing options to increase MFPD resources, such as pursuing more strike team income, grant funding, volunteers, or tax revenues.
  • Actively fostering more public engagement, participation, informed feedback, and shared involvement in building a fire safe community.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Management & fundraising consultant to non-profits
Chair, Environmental Science School (Director, Escuela Ciencias Ambientales, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (1975–1994)

Education

Harvard University Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy in Biology (M.A., Ph.D.), Tropical biology, forest ecology (1996)

Community Activities

Board member & Vice President, Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica (1977–1983)
Board member & Vice President, Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica (1977–1983)

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

Letter to votersof the Mosquito Fire Protection District

Summary

A review of the major challenges facing the MFPD, some approaches to building solutions, and the candidate's qualifications and background.   

October 6, 2018

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

My name is Chuck Schnell. I’m running for the Fire Board and am asking for your vote.

In our rural, wildfire-prone setting, adequate firefighting and emergency services are a vital community asset.  I have attended most of the MFPD board meetings over the last two years and have become concerned about the problems facing our district.  Funding limitations demand careful planning and prudent stewardship, with public support.  We must engage community members in both reducing wildfire risk and building consensus on what level of MFPD services to aim for, taking cost into account.

I believe that I have relevant skills and experience in planning, structuring results-driven programs, and building participatory efforts.  Mostly I hope to help bring all interested parties together to devise a feasible plan for the MFPD and achieve realistic goals on behalf of the Mosquito community. 

The challenges.

Wildfire frequency and severity has grown, in the State as a whole and in El Dorado County.  Fuel loads are at record highs in our forests while warmer weather, drought, and bark beetles are not going away.  At the same time medical emergency calls— much more frequent than fires – have risen.  Yet service levels are more limited than many realize.  The fire station is staffed only 8 hours daily, leaving us heavily reliant on slower outside response for much of the time.

The financial challenge is significant.  Revenues have decreased sharply in the past five years.  County funding stopped (it was $68,000/year in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015) and inflation has eaten away 12% of the buying power of the other revenue sources (equivalent to a loss of nearly $40,000).  Between these two factors, the MFPD has faced a cut of 23% of the purchasing power it had five years ago.

An evolving regulatory environment has raised cost through more training requirements for volunteers as well as paid firefighters, extension of OSHA and NFPA rules to rural fire districts, and a shift in liability for firefighter safety on to local departments, which cannot risk a lawsuit by not meeting standards.  

Towards Solutions.

Financial projections:  an essential tool.  We need to know what our resources and costs would be under various alternative strategies covering 3-5 years.

Strategic plan:  we need to set and pursue clear, realistic goals, arrived at transparently. This implies more than just yearly budgets, but a long-term planning framework, backed by financial projections and specific implementation strategies to make them work out.  Resource mobilization will be key.  Specific strategies might include: 

Increase strike team participation and revenues;

Pursue more grant funding;

Foster a larger, more vibrant group of trained volunteers;

Ask the public to support a tax increase;

Build reserve funds to cushion unpredictable income levels;

Explore further cooperation and shared planning with Garden Valley Fire District and others, including possible eventual consolidation.

These options are inter-related.  Grant funding for training or equipment might be part of the plan to increase strike team income; both might contribute to attracting and retaining volunteers, as well as to strengthen reserve funds; all these might put MFPD in a stronger position to negotiate cooperative arrangements or even a consolidation agreement, if that became desirable.  An effective plan might involve them all.

Regular progress assessment:  monitor progress, review assumptions, adjust plans, report to constituency, invite input.  

Public engagement.  It is important to find means to improve community outreach and involvement, to obtain broad, well-informed feedback and collaboration from residents, and to build a fire safe community.  I hope to be a voice for inclusiveness, tolerance, and evidence-based decision-making.

These ideas are preliminary.  They will be considered, refined, and further developed through teamwork among the elected board members, the fire chief, staff, and volunteers, and the participating public.  I look forward to conversing with you, hearing your input, and together improving the services provided by our MFPD.  My contact information and a brief bio are below.  

Thank you for reading this.  I hope to count on your vote.

 

Sincerely, 

                Chuck

Charles (Chuck) Schnell

6612 Log Cabin Lane

530-642-2865

 

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Bio of Charles Schnell:

Born in Fresno; graduate of Clovis High School and Grinnell College.  Mosquito resident; regularly attend MFPD board meetings, Fire Safe Council, and other local organizations and events. 

Married to Patricia Caramagno, sharing nine children in a blended family. 

Trained in forest ecology and organizational management; graduate degrees in biology (Harvard) and an MBA (Central American Management Institute, INCAE). 

Built and managed university and non-profit programs in forestry and natural resources for 30 years in Latin America, overseeing up to 250 employees.  Led development of the first professional forestry school in Central America.  Board member of foundation, educational, and non-profit entities.   

Worked as a consultant in area of natural resource management and related education and institutional strengthening programs, in the U.S. and overseas.  Helped develop long range plans and funding for non-governmental organizations and public agencies, mostly from US government sources. 

Expertise as grant proposal writer; 20 years as international consultant to government and private entities on program development and resource mobilization.  Lead writer on the successful 2018 MFPD application to FEMA, a pending Fire Safe proposal to support fuel reduction in Mosquito, and two successful NFPA Fire Prevention Day grants (2017 and 2018). 

Experience in listening, nurturing participatory processes, strategic planning, budgeting, and responsive management.  

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