Cambria, California fire chief Mark Miller is beloved by his community — but that didn’t stop General Manager Tammy Rudock from abruptly terminating him without citing a reason. The community promptly rallied around Miller; one local resident created a petition that called for his reinstatement as fire chief. After hundreds of locals signed the petition, GM Rudock was the one who lost her job, and Miller was reinstated as fire chief!
We spoke with the petition author about the Cambria community’s successful campaign to reinstate of their fire chief:
What is the story behind your petition?
Cambria is an unincorporated town of about 6,000 (about 4,000 full time) on the California coast. The Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) provides water, sewer, fire and parks services for the town. The district is governed by an elected board of 5 directors and run by a general manager.
On April 12, 2011, the Cambria fire chief was abruptly terminated by the general manager (Tammy Rudock) of the CCSD. Chief Mark Miller is a highly qualified fire professional who is not only great at his job, but well-liked by the fire-fighters and the community. Rudock was unwilling to cite a reason for the firing, citing personnel confidentiality. Chief Miller wasn’t the only employee that had been recently dismissed for what seemed to be no good reason.
A campaign supporting reinstatement of chief Miller quickly formed, including collecting signatures on paper petitions and a Facebook page. After talking to chief Miller and a few key folks at the fire department, I set up the online petition, linked to the Facebook page and my blog.
When the board of the CCSD met on April 28, 2011, I was able to deliver over 250 signatures on the paper petitions and 410 from the online petition — the vast majority of which were from Cambria locals. There were also over 250 people present at the April 28 meeting — probably at least in part because of the publicity included with the petition. Many of those who signed the online petition were unable to attend the meeting and thanked me later for giving them a chance to have their voices heard.
So what is the final outcome?
The board terminated GM Rudock as of April 29, 2011 and appointed Jerry Gruber as interim GM. Mr. Gruber’s first task was to work on getting chief Miller back. Cambria’s fire chief returned to work on May 16, 2011 — with the headline of the local paper proclaiming “It’s Miller Time Again!”
What was the most effective part of having this petition?
The ability of the decision makers to read the comments from the signers. All the board members had been swamped with calls from the community. It was helpful that there was another semi-direct line of communication between the board and the community members. I invited each of the board members to sign the petition, which provided each of them a link to the petition.
Board president Muril Clift told us at the meeting that he had read each of the comments added by the signers as they were added. Each of the other board members also seemed to have been keeping up with the comments. This was probably the most important feature in helping determine the final outcome. I highly recommend to other petition creators that they notify the target of the petition of the petition’s existence. This will allow them to follow the progress of the petition and read comments as the number of supporters grows, instead of being blindsided with hundreds or thousands of comments at the last minute.
I would definitely use ThePetitionSite again for local issues. This first experience, including its successful outcome, was very positive and effective.
Photo credit: Istock
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