In a 45-minute emergency meeting, the Pettis County Fire Protection District elected Keith Rowland president of the organization Wednesday evening, one night after most of the firefighters took a leave of absence in protest of board member Harold Ream.

The move allows the board to meet as a two-out-of-three quorum, without Ream's presence. Ream was not present for Wednesday night's meeting held at the main station at 16th and Thompson.

Having Rowland as president of the PCFPD means much more control of the monthly meetings, the ability to prevent filibusters, and conduct meetings in a timely manner. “We've had meetings that lasted as many as six hours,” Rowland told KSIS.

The PCFPD currently has about 50 firefighters on their roster, acccording to Capt. Mark Stevenson. Monthly meetings occur every second Tuesday.

Randy Kirby

Rowland said he feels like the district is now on the upswing. “I'm really encouraged by what took place tonight. These guys made me darned proud of them,” President Rowland said.

Presently, the district is in “pretty good shape,” but “we have equipment that needs to be repaired and need more personal protective equipment,” Rowland said. He added that there are two other fire departments that are considering joining the Pettis County Fire Protection District. “So we'll need more equipment if and when that happens.”

Pettis County Fire Chief Mike Harding noted during the meeting that even though the department is all-volunteer, firefighters get paid $10 on an average call, and $20 for a structure call they respond to. “So they put their life on the line for pocket change,” Harding said. “They want to see the best outcome for the community. They get $10 for station training, and $20 for district training.”

Randy Kirby

Officers get paid a little more, but they have more responsibilities to keep the trucks in good working order. PCFPD has 26 pieces of apparatus over seven fire stations.

“Family is what it's all about, Chief Harding said. “They have the responsibility to make sure every one goes home safe to their families. We shouldn't have to put up a fight over stuff that is needed to keep us safe. The firefighters came to me about this. I support the firefighters. That's why I took my leave of absense. I am back. And we are back to support Tim (Padgett) and Keith (Rowland),” Harding said to applause from the firefighters.

Randy Kirby

Also in attendance Wednesday's meeting were Pettis County Commissioners David Dick and Jim Marcum, as well as Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Sawyer and Pettis County EMA Director Trisha Rooda.

President Rowland thanked the Commissioners for their loyal support during this time.

Units from the Sedalia Police Department, Pettis County Sheriff and Missouri State Highway Patrol were on hand to provide security for the meeting, which was completely peaceful.

Randy KIrby