Cowlitz County Fire District 6 has officially appointed a new interim chief as the search continues for a full-time chief after the resignation of former chief Eric Koreis in May.
Deputy Chief Bill LeMonds was promoted to the temporary position during the regular meeting of District 6 commissioners on Sept. 8 and is expected to serve until the end of November, replacing previous interim chief Kurt Stich, who has returned to work full time for Cowlitz County Fire District 2 in the Kelso and Longview areas.
LeMonds, a 29-year volunteer of the district, said he will continue to volunteer in his position as interim chief, though commissioners approved a $1,000 per month stipend to assist in his leadership responsibilities.
"I very sincerely thank you for doing this," stated Commissioner Mike Kayser, acknowledging the effort it will take to fulfill the position.
LeMonds is taking the helm of District 6 at a time when officials are seeking an increase to local property taxes to help pay for district activities and create a financial buffer to avoid potential financial collapse. When describing how District 6 reached such difficult financial circumstances, some officials, including Kayser, have pointed to recent financial decisions made by Koreis related to his salary and the acquisition of new vehicles for the district.
When responding to statements of such criticism previously printed by this newspaper, District 6 Commission Chair Mark Watenpaugh categorically refuted claims that Koreis' actions have hurt the district, stating Koreis was never paid more than what had been approved in his contract and had not purchased any equipment the district was not in need of, adding commissioners would have had to approve his financial decisions in the first place.