Noel Monin to become Chief of Fire Department

The professional service contract promoting Interim Chief Noel Monin to Chief of San Juan Island Fire and Rescue was passed on Tuesday, Feb.13 by the commissioners of San Juan Fire District 3. Monin took the Interim Chief position in early November following former Chief Norvin Collins retirement, and as the commissioners began drafting an Interim Chief contract for Monin, they decided to elect Monin as Chief and draft a contract to reflect the organization’s structural changes. The commissioners referenced multiple local, state, and out-of-state Fire Chief contracts during its creation, and after multiple reviews of the contract at open board meetings and by the Fire Department’s attorney Eric Quinn, the contract was officially passed at the February board meeting.

“The process through the contract negotiation was novel for me,” said Monin at the Feb. 13 board meeting. “It was healthy and it could be used as an example to other organizations to be as transparent as possible, and it really holds the contractee and the contractors accountable.”

Monin has a long history of working for San Juan Island Fire and Rescue, starting as a volunteer firefighter for the department in 1997. Originally from Sedro-Woolley, he moved to the island in 1996 after accepting a park aid position for the Washington Conservation Corps at Lime Kiln State Park. The ranger at that time, Chris Guidotti, suggested to Monin that he become a volunteer firefighter, and the two would often accept calls together as volunteers.

Monin served as a volunteer firefighter for four and a half years before he was hired as a Firefighter Maintenance worker in 2001. Since then, he has progressed through the ranks, being promoted to Maintenance Supervisor and then to a Lieutenant, gaining more operations experience before becoming a Captain. He then served as the Assistant Chief for seven years before his short stint as Interim Chief in November 2023, later being chosen as the final candidate for the Chief position the following month.

As part of the organization’s restructuring, the Assistant Chief position has been absolved and the Chief will be taking on many of the Assistant Chief responsibilities. Although Monin is able to delegate some of these tasks, he doesn’t want to overwhelm his staff. He is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s daunting; there’s a lot on the plate. There’s a lot of moving parts and not many staff, and it’s a complex industry. But I’m honored that the public and volunteers have been supportive, and the commission has confidence in me. But I know it’s going to be a lot of work,” said Monin.

Monin has identified two main challenges he wants to address as Chief, the first being the budget. With aging fleet facilities, rising labor costs and a lack of additional revenue sources, Monin wants to create a five-year strategic plan and a ten-year master plan to outline the goals that the department wants to accomplish and with what means they will need to achieve them. At the February board meeting, Monin proposed that he and the commissioners come together to create these plans, and this suggestion was well received. The board hopes to convene in April, possibly at the April open meeting, to draft the plans.

“I think some guiding principles can help us not only actualize our own direction and set a course, but articulate honestly how we’re gonna get there and the funds that are needed to do that,” said Monin.

Another priority for Monin is increasing volunteerism and getting the community involved in supporting the fire department. With staffing constraints, the department can only do so much, says Monin. Part of the solution is providing fire protection through volunteers, which the department heavily relies on. Outside of these two priorities, maintaining industry standards and staying true to the mission of protecting the public and their property occupy a large part of Monin’s job.

Despite the difficulties he will face, Monin referenced a few experiences that he believes serve him well in this position. Serving as a town council member for 14 years, Monin says he has developed a sense of what a good administration, successful leaders, and efficient governing looks like. Additionally, he has been actively involved in Washington State mobilization for several years, combatting primarily wildland fires and large-scale disasters throughout the state. Through this experience, not only has he had the opportunity to execute plans in high-intensity, dire situations while working with new team members, but has also gained perspective on different emergencies and how to respond accordingly.

Lastly, as someone who has lived on the island for over 25 years, Monin believes he understands what the community’s needs are. His ability to advance through the organization shows his dedication to the department. Monin remains humble in receiving his new Chief status and reiterates the importance of upholding the department’s mission.

“It’s not about me; I’m about the organization and the people who make it,” said Monin. “If we’re successful in responding to calls, keeping fires checked and helping people on the worst day of their lives, and we’re doing that consistently, that’s what’s important to me. That’s what matters.”