Race for a Seat on the MOFD Board


    What started out as a two-party race dwindled down to a one-party, unchallenged race and later switched back to two candidates again. The seat for the Moraga-Orinda Fire District 5 (MOFD) Board of Directors has been anything but boring, and Orindans have their work cut out for them in deciding for whom to vote.
    While many ballots have already been mailed, there are still a fair number of votes yet to be cast, and the two candidates, Sharon McGinnis Girdlestone and incumbent Craig Jorgens, still have lots to say.
    Jorgens leans on his business and technical background:
    “MOFD, a $30 million-a-year organization, needs proven management experience on its community oversight board. My 33 years as a business executive and technical background allow me to provide seasoned advice to keep MOFD financially sound, technologically advanced and represent the interests of Orindans, not outside special interests,” said Jorgens, father of two grown daughters.
    Girdlestone, a mom of two boys and local business owner, initially dropped out of the race, stating the day she filed her paperwork to run she received news her father-in-law was terminally ill.
    “We are from the U.K. and considered going there for the next few months,” she said. “I changed my mind at the urging of members from our Lamorinda Diversity Group and Lamorinda Families Group.
    “Friends on Nextdoor started to send me posts that talked about ‘GoFundMe’s’ for the MOFD incumbent’s campaign that FireWise Council of Orinda posted on his behalf,” she added. “I realized that this might not be the friendliest race. Some people were very, very passionate about the incumbent in their posts — so much so, that they have been emailing me privately.”
    Since then, it’s been full speed ahead for Girdlestone.
    “I will work with the MOFD board, not against them,” she said, offering more details of what that means exactly:
    “Ideally, I would support increasing the fire prevention expenditure. At the present time, due to Covid-19 and uncertainty in the economic future, I would be extremely cautious in allocating additional funds for any programs,” said Girdlestone. “Fire prevention should be the priority, and a thorough review of all funds should be done to determine if funds can be used for prevention. The district has been successful in receiving grant funds from the state as well as private sources, and those should be explored to the fullest extent possible.”
    Jorgens endorses more spending on fire prevention as well: “I believe the MOFD should focus more spending on fire prevention, while still efficiently providing state-of-the-art fire and emergency medical services.” He added, “And significantly expanding the free chipper program I introduced a few years ago from a Lake Tahoe Fire District would be a good start.
    “[MOFD should] continue to develop and implement the next generation of technology, such as satellite monitoring of fire zones, that can automatically trigger evacuations,” Jorgens continued. “I started this process five years ago in work our HOA did with UC Berkeley professor John Radke, whose grad students built fire burn simulation models for North Orinda and his colleagues built fire sensors that MOFD deployed in the Briones wildlands.”
    Jorgens, a 28-year resident of North Orinda, was born and raised in Spokane, WA, and credits his parents for being a strong, positive influence in his life.
    “They provided a robust example of strong moral character and of significant community involvement,” he said. “My father was the chairman of the local school board, while my mother was president of the PTA and both were scout leaders and leaders in other civic organizations.”
    Girdlestone, an Orinda resident with close ties to the community, said good relationships are key to getting things done.
    “I have no experience or training in firefighting, but I have great relationships with many of our Lamorinda Families Facebook group that I own; we have 6800 members in it and we do lots of charity stuff and have great discussions. We also have great relationships with our local fire district,” she said.
    “After experiencing a close call just feet away from our home on El Toyonal a few months ago, not to mention our friends in Los Angeles losing homes to fire, I have a very high appreciation for the work that our fire district provides our community.
    “In the history of MOFD, there has been one woman on the board,” she said. “I will bring a new perspective if I serve. I will also bring transparency, honesty and will work to bring the community together, not divide it.”
    Jorgens relies on his firsthand experience and community service.
    He said he’s given back to the community ever since he retired as president of a large multinational satellite company. He also stated he’s served the last four years on the Orinda Infrastructure Committee, which oversees spending on Orinda’s 100 miles of public roads.
    “While there, I introduced new paving technology capable of doubling the life of Orinda’s repaved roads,” said Jorgens. “I am also the president of my HOA, where I oversee the fire prevention efforts on 200 acres of open space and manage the maintenance on three miles of private roads. I have also served on the MOFD Board for the last four years.”
    Jorgens pointed to some of his accomplishments on the MOFD Board: “They include uncovering $23 million double-counting of assets on MOFD’s books and fighting to correct it; hiring a terrific new fire chief who is proactive, innovative and prioritizes prevention; being a founding member of the Orinda FireWise Committee, dedicated to making all of Orinda safe from wildfires through outreach and education about prevention; and helping to identify and implement new, early fire detection and automated evacuation alert systems.”
    His promise to his community is about being proactive: “Leveraging my technical background and industry relationships, I will continue to be instrumental in identifying and supporting the deployment of advanced technology for early fire detection and automated triggering of evacuations.”
    Girdlestone talks about why she decided to run for office in the first place, and ultimately, remain on the ballot: “My plan was to be transparent and learn as much as I could in order to work with the MOFD Board,” she said. “I am not in this for any reason but to work with our board to make our community safer. We love MOFD.”

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