Chief greeted with hostility at Democratic club meeting

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

If you’re considering addressing the Oakville Democratic Organization, you might want to think twice before doing so.

Mehlville Fire Protection District Chief Brian Hendricks addressed the Oakville Democratic Organization last week, as a club member had contacted him with concerns about the department’s ability to respond to fire and medical emergencies.

In an effort to address those concerns, Hendricks was greeted with open hostility by some club members, some Mehlville Fire Protection District retirees and some former district employees. We believe those former firefighters can accurately be characterized as bitter and disgruntled former employees, as some of them have made social media posts critical of the department.

Some of those present had never attended a meeting of the organization before, but they were vocal in their criticism of the current Board of Directors and how it operates.

Hendricks is the fire chief. He isn’t running for elective office. He certainly deserved more respect than he received at the March 1 meeting. It’s a shame that he was put on the defensive almost from the get-go, as he was taking time out of his very busy schedule to address residents’ concerns.

The chief prefaced his remarks by saying he responds to every concern he hears about his department and also noted he would not endorse any board candidate.

Yet at least one club member insinuated he was working against board candidate Jane Kolb, who is challenging incumbent board Chairman Aaron Hilmer in the April 4 election.

Kolb contends employee turnover is excessive, even through she made that claim before seeking any firsthand information from district officials. In response, Hendricks said he was asked a direct question and does not believe the district has a turnover issue.

Some uninformed social media posters falsely claimed Hilmer was invited to speak, but did not show up. Yet, Hilmer was not contacted by the club or invited to speak at the meeting. If you don’t like Hilmer and the job he’s done as chairman of the board since 2005, that’s fine. Don’t vote for him.

That’s how democracy works.

But to falsely attempt to instill fear and undermine the public’s confidence in the department’s ability to respond to fire and medical emergencies for political purposes is despicable.

And to disrespect Hendricks and the excellent job he is doing in a public setting is simply shameful.