District Appoints New Fire Commissioner

Lisa Bryan, KP News

Longtime Wauna resident Randy Takehara was officially sworn in as a Key Peninsula Fire District 16 commissioner by the board of commissioners during its regularly scheduled meeting May 11 via Zoom. He succeeded outgoing Commissioner Sheila Nivens.

Originally appointed commissioner herself in 2008, Nivens went on to be elected by voters three times. She informed the board earlier this year of her intent to move outside the district boundaries, disqualifying her from serving the remaining six months of her term.

With Nivens’ departure the board lost its most senior board member in a position where, according to Board Chair Commissioner Stan Moffett, “experience matters.”

Moffett said having good, qualified candidates willing to step up and volunteer their time is essential, “and it takes longer than six months to get to know this position. It takes a good three or four years to really understand everything that goes on.”

“We had three strong candidates and any one of them would have been very good,” he said. “It was a difficult choice.”

Takehara moved to the KP with his family when he was 3 years old. They lived near Danforth in Wauna. He attended Purdy Elementary School, Key Peninsula Middle School, and graduated from Peninsula High School in 1992. He joined the U.S. Air Force and spent four years as a military firefighter stationed in Texas before he coming home.

He joined the Air Force Reserves and lived in Lakewood for a time. In 2000, Takehara hired on as a firefighter at Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis McChord) and worked his way up to battalion chief, a position he’s held for nearly 13 years. He retired from the Air Force Reserves in 2015 as an Assistant Fire Chief. He is a member of both the IAFF Local F283 JBLM Professional Fire Fighters Union and the Washington State Council of Firefighters.

“I’ve got a lot of fire experience outside the peninsula area, and I want to have a say in how that service goes,” Takehara said.

He knew he wanted to explore the differences between federal and county fire districts, so he joined the KPFD Citizen Advisory Panel in 2016 and served until his fire commissioner appointment.

“It’s really nice as citizens we’re able to do that, to participate as citizen advisors,” he said. “I can tell you that coming from the federal side, all that is closed door and secret; there are no opportunities like that.”

Takehara said it was both a fun and revealing experience with CAP, learning how different some things are but how similar too.

“Fire is fire. We run a lot of medical aid calls on JBLM just like everywhere else,” he said. He suspects the calls for aid are likely different given the younger population and activity on military bases as compared to typical civilian communities. JBLM firefighters respond to emergencies off-base as well, providing cooperative assistance to neighboring county fire districts as needed.

“Procurement is different, administration is different, budgets are different –– the funding mechanisms are entirely different,” he said. “We don’t have to deal with that stuff at the federal level the same way. To be sliding in right now as a commissioner with an ask for a lid-lift on our levy in the near future? It’s going to be interesting.”

Randy and his wife, Jessica Takehara, who teaches English at Harbor Ridge in Gig Harbor, have two kids and live in the Wind and Tides community. “We live just down the road about five minutes from my dad, and that’s awesome,” Randy said.

Takehara got involved with KP Little League and served on its board when his eldest son and namesake started playing baseball at Volunteer Park. Hit fast forward: That son just turned 16 years old and is finishing his sophomore year at PHS, and the elder Takehara is currently president of Peninsula Baseball Boosters.

Takehara, who has not run for an elected office before, filed as a candidate for the Fire District 16 Commission with Pierce County Elections for the upcoming election in August.

“I had some very good competition in being appointed,” he said, “and I may well have some again soon.”